The play is called, the players break from the huddle and the quarterback yells for the snap. Just moments later, that same quarterback, who happens to be your son - is laying flat on his back after being tackled by one of the opposing team’s biggest linemen. While the other team celebrates the sack, your school’s athletic trainer starts making her way out onto the field and you notice that a few of his teammates have gathered around your son and are looking down with worried expressions. He hasn’t moved.
You breathe a sigh of relief when a couple of minutes later, he’s able to stand up, with support, and make his way slowly to the sideline. He’s dizzy and fumbling his words. The coaching staff questions him about what happened, how he feels and whether he’s okay. It becomes clear that he is completely confused as he can’t seem to recall the play or even what is happening with the game in general. The athletic training later explains to you that high school football concussions like the one your son sustained can result in many of the symptoms that the young quarterback sustained:
- Short term memory loss
- Problems with coordination and balance
- Blurred vision/ringing in ears
- Difficulty with vision
- Emotional changes
- Issues with sleep
If you had an experience like the one described above, you would most likely find yourself becoming an enthusiastic proponent of parental concussion awareness. You would have seen first hand that even high school football concussions can be serious injuries and you would want to see other parents get informed and raise awareness.
The problem is that not all concussions are as obvious as the scenario described above and not all produce such clear, dramatic symptoms. There are cases when the impact sustained by a player is hidden among the rest of the tackling and action on the field and no one even notices because no immediate symptoms arise. Parents of high school football players who sustain these kinds of concussions may find, for example, that later in the evening, after the game, the child’s disposition just seems different or that he is slow to answer questions.
These less obvious symptoms can easily be brushed to the side as merely results of fatigue or parents may even become annoyed with the child for their irregular behavior. Without the proper knowledge, parents are often unaware of the serious brain injuries that are sustained when high school football concussions occur. But the reality is that no matter what kind of symptoms surface or when they manifest, every concussion is serious and should be properly diagnosed and treated immediately.
Did You Know?...
High school athletes sustain an estimated 300,000 concussions per year, according to The American Journal of Sports Medicine. Read more statistics on sports and concussions.
Concussions & Their Symptoms
A concussion can occur anytime there is a forceful blow to the head neck, shoulders or back or there is force transferred from these areas that result in rapid movement of the head. This rapid movement actually causes trauma to the brain and affects its ability to perform properly. Because the brain plays a vital role in maintaining physical, cognitive and emotional health, all of these areas can potentially become compromised due to such injury.
Physical Symptoms: headaches, dizziness, nausea, poor coordination, blurred vision, hearing problems, sensitivity to light
Cognitive Symptoms: difficulty concentrating, short term memory loss, mental fogginess
Emotional Symptoms: irritability, anxiety, general sadness, frustration and restlessness, anger
In addition to the above mentioned symptoms, high school football concussions can also result in sleep disturbances for your student-athlete. He may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep once he does. Or, he may feel generally drowsy throughout the day for up to several weeks.
A Note About Helmets
When the stark reality of the dangers of head injury became apparent to the American football community, a movement began to offer protection to players. The helmet was added to the game uniform and it has certainly been a step in the right direction toward avoiding injury to the head during an unapologetically high-impact sport.
Over the last several years, concerned coaches, parents and athletic trainers have pushed for more research into alternative helmet designs and have championed pioneering work in developing new helmet cushioning options. However, no matter what material has been used inside of the helmet, new helmet technology and advancements have failed to reduce the rates of high school football concussions.
What Can Parents Do?
Helmets help, but there is still work to be done. Parents should continue to push for more research that will support concussion prevention. In the mean time, stay aware and be on the lookout for signs of concussion among your student-athletes. If a concussion is sustained, it is crucial that symptoms be monitored closely for the first 24 hours. Find a concussion specialist who can properly diagnose and treat your child’s specific case. And when he is recovered and cleared to get back on the field, then it’s your job to get back to cheering!