In the year between last night’s Super Bowl and the one before it, the public has witnessed a growing awareness about the potentially devastating, long-term effects of brain injury among NFL players.
In response to lawsuits brought by former players, the NFL began an initiative to develop new technologies to detect and prevent concussions, placed independent physicians on the field to assess athletes during games, and forged a partnership between the NFL and the Centers for Disease Control to help educate coaches, parents and young athletes about concussion.
But are parents taking concussions seriously?
A recent survey by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), indicated that only half of the respondents sought treatment and were diagnosed by a medical professional when they received a head injury and thought they might have a concussion.
The reason? Survey responders did not think the symptoms were serious enough — or thought that they just had a headache.
Three in five parents gave those same reasons for not taking their children with head injuries to a medical professional for treatment.
Sports medicine physician David Carfagno, DO, says there are are still families, as well as providers, that aren’t up to speed on the latest assessment techniques in determining the symptoms of a concussion. “A lot of parents,” says Carfagno, “feel they can still manage concussions like they did years ago.”
Carfagno, who practices with Scottsdale Sports Medicine Institute, says a face-to-face evaluation is needed when there is a possibility that a head injury has occurred. But the “shake it off and get back in the game” attitude still exists.
Some of those attitudes will take time to change, says Carfagno, who played college football himself, because many of today’s parents and coaches grew up at a time when getting one’s “bell rung” was considered almost to be a rite of passage in sports. “I had a concussion — we all did. We just didn’t know about it.”
Or, players kept their injury to themselves because they didn’t want to risk being pulled out of the game and loosing their place in the line-up.
The good news for young athletes is that these days, there is a greater chance of an evaluation for concussion by a medical professional for the child who is injured while playing sports than if the injury occurred at home. Every parent, however, needs to take childhood bumps on the head seriously, even if at the time, the child doesn’t lose consciousness or isn’t bleeding.
One big concern among the survey findings was that seven in 10 respondents incorrectly identified symptoms such as “shortness of breath” and “hearing damage” as symptoms of concussion. However, they still reported feeling confident in their ability to recognize concussion symptoms.
The number one thing that parents need to understand about concussions, says Carfagno, is that they should not be taken lightly. A headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting are signs that could indicate brain injury. Kids need to rest their brains after a concussion by taking a break from cognitive work — and that includes video games, reading, and homework.
In some cases, concussion takes a back seat to other more obvious injuries sustained in an accident or sporting event. Competitive barrel racer Tatum Brown, 12, shares her concussion story in this month’s RAKVideo.