4 things parents and youth athletes should know about concussions

Every person and every concussion is different

4 things parents and youth athletes should know about concussions

Despite the attention drawn to the topic of concussions over the past decade, it can be difficult to find readily available answers about what parents and young athletes should do after sustaining a concussion.

The Katsuyama family started 2023 without a single concussion, even with quite a few hockey and lacrosse seasons under its belt. That changed when Rylan, 11, received two concussions within five months from sports. One week after Rylan’s second concussion, his brother, Brandon, 13, was illegally checked from behind in a hockey game and sustained his first concussion. After clearing protocol in four weeks, he suffered a second concussion six weeks later.

Both boys endured months of headaches, missed school, dizziness, nausea and the added difficulty of navigating a significant injury peers and adults couldn’t see.

Their father, Brad Katsuyama, co-founder of IEX – a disruptive stock exchange featured in the best-selling book by Michael Lewis, “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt” – sought out expert opinions to guide his family’s decisions and shares some acquired knowledge to help parents and athletes.

1. Brain injuries should be diagnosed by a concussion specialist.
There is no X-ray, MRI or CT scan that can show the extent of most concussion-related injuries, which makes diagnosing them subjective. Symptoms can also appear days after a hit. For example, Brandon was cleared by the emergency room after his first concussion, but two days later failed every test administered by a doctor specializing in concussions.

2. Rushing back to play is one of the worst mistakes you can make.
Experts consistently reinforced that coming back from a concussion too soon can significantly increase long-term brain injury risks. There is likely no tournament, playoff game or tryout worth this risk. An example of how to return smartly is Patrice Bergeron of the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins, who sat out an entire year to properly heal from a concussion.

“Patrice had four more concussions over his career, and each one was less severe than the last,” renowned concussion specialist Dr. Robert Cantu said. “That wouldn’t have happened without recovery from the first one.”

READ MORE: New saliva test can help kids with concussions

3. Parents and kids need to be honest about symptoms.
The culture in youth sports praises toughness. Getting your “bell rung” and continuing to play can be viewed as a badge of honor. However, this same mentality can cause athletes to lie to parents, trainers and coaches to get back in the game, which can greatly increase long-term risks. Conversely, the same adults can unduly influence a potentially vulnerable player back on to the field of play. Proper diagnosis requires both adults and athletes to be level-headed and honest in their assessment of concussions.

4. Every person and every concussion is different.
One person’s history and experience with concussions seldom carries any relevance to the concussions experienced by another. For example, Katsuyama played varsity football, hockey and rugby for four years in high school and football in college.

“For the longest time, my definition of a ‘real’ concussion was blacking out, vomiting or pupils dilating,” Katsuyama said. “My sons had none of those symptoms after their hits, but it turns out the severity of their injuries were far greater than anything I had experienced.”

The Katsuyamas turned to the Concussion Legacy Foundation and the Cantu Concussion Center, in addition to their local concussion specialist, to advise their path forward, which has led them to racquet sports and golf in the near-term and long-term playing no more than one contact sport in a school year. Learn more at concussionfoundation.org.

(Family Features)
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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