WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Neurosurgeon Ezriel Kornel MD of West Harrison's Brain and Spine Surgeons of New York believes in allowing children to play sports. He also advises parents, however, that concussions are one of the risks of most physical activities.
Concussion is defined as any injury to the brain that disrupts normal brain function on a temporary or permanent basis. A concussion can alter the way the brain functions, and result in headaches, lack of concentration and judgment, loss of memory and poor balance and coordination.
“Since most victims do not suffer a loss of consciousness with concussion, it can be overlooked as a minor incident, or ignored altogether,” Dr. Kornel said.
“Symptoms of a concussion range from subtle to obvious and usually happen right after the injury but may take hours to days to show up,'' he added.
With most concussions, the player is not knocked out or unconscious. A number of athletes who have had concussions report feeling normal before their brain has fully recovered.
Dr. Kornel said most concussions occur in contact sports, such as football, rugby and ice hockey. They can also occur, however, in soccer, or a collision with the ground, goal post or wall.
Many concussions also occur outside organized sports. For example, a child riding a bike or skateboard can fall down and bump his head on the street or an obstacle. About 375,000 children and teens are treated in emergency rooms annually just for basketball injuries alone.
“All concussions are serious, and all athletes with suspected concussions should not return to play until they see a doctor,” Dr. Kornel said. “A doctor can confirm the diagnosis of concussion based on clinical presentation and can determine the need for any specialized tests, such as a CT scan of the brain, MRI of the brain, or neuropsychological tests and then decide if it is safe for an athlete to return to play.”
Prematurely returning to play after a concussion, he added, “can lead to another concussion or potentially a significant brain injury that could lead to death. An athlete with a history of a singular or multiple concussion(s) may be more susceptible to another injury than an athlete without a history of concussion.”
The best treatment for a concussion is complete rest from all physical and mental activity, Dr. Kornel said. Access to loud music, a computer, and television should be limited or stopped.
Dr. Kornel said helmets can mitigate concussion risks. Athletes should be taught safe playing techniques and communicate with their coach, teacher, trainer, parent or supervisor if they are experiencing concussion symptons.
“Every athlete needs to know how crucial it is to let their coach, athletic trainer, or parent know if they have hit their head or have symptoms of a head injury — even if it means stopping play,’’ he said. “Never ignore a head injury, no matter how minor.”
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