In the past year, some 4 million North Americans of all ages sustained a sport or recreational activity related head injury and there is no reason to believe the pattern won’t continue. A substantial number of those injuries are occurring in very young children with most receiving only cursory medical assessment.
“Kid got his bell rung? Sit him out a few shifts”. Too many times, the parent not in attendance receives minimal anecdotal description of the degree of injury and junior participates in the next practice or game without medical assessment. Hockey has been taking some hard knocks on this issue lately and has started to address the concerns but surprisingly football, then wrestling followed closely by soccer and basketball are the major statistical culprits. Soccer belongs in there because its the fastest growing sport . The fact you don’t have to invest hundreds of dollars in equipment has great appeal to the low budget parent. There are few Canadians who don’t know Bobby Hull holds the slap shot velocity record at 119 mph and a baseball can come off a newer tech bat at 115mph. What is not public knowledge is the kicked soccer ball has been clocked at 103mph and any skilled adolescent with a developed quad muscle can achieve velocities in excess of 70mph
The single event head injury will always represent a significant health impacting occurrence but non-invasive MRIs give us a virtual brain biopsy capability and new technology to analyze brain protein chemistry and undisputedly demonstrate that most long term brain changes are the result of cumulative impacts rather than the one time contact.
Much of this new work has been directed from the respected Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and Boston University’s neurosciences department in cooperation with the NFL and NFLPA. In fact some of the knowledge is the result of autopsy findings on deceased NFL players who, after career end had the foresight to to bequeath their remains for study. We now have the ability to demonstrate decreases in brain proteins necessary for maintaining cognitive function but we can also analyze markers of brain injury. All this research is evolving an entire new vocabulary of medical disorders. CTE, or cumulative traumatic encephalopathy is the long term result of brain insults beginning as early as preschool streetball of any variety.
As a guide to parents, you should be aware the medical definition of concussion is
“a post traumatic impairment of neural status.” LOSS OF CONSCIOUSNESS and/or AMNESIA are hallmark signs of concussion but they do not have to occur in every event nor are they the only signs of head trauma.
I have a strong opinion backed by these new findings we should ban “HEADING” the soccer ball at the preadolescent and adolescent levels of the sport and our children should be wearing “soccer helmets” similar to rugger headgear to lessen the impact of inevitable head to head or head to knee contacts. I never understood the logic of purchasing shin pads but not protecting the most vital organ.
As a parent, insist on being notified of all head contacts your child sustains , practice or competition and then do not allow further practice or play until assessed and cleared by medically qualified personnel……..and finally..these findings are definitely reinforcing of the principle: better to TAKE your child than SEND them.