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Play it safe with kids and concussions

Mind, Spirit, Body

Kids win when they play sports, regardless of the score. They gain confidence and learn the value of teamwork. And of course, physical activity helps kids grow up healthy. So as a parent, you can feel good about supporting your child’s love for the game.

Even so, you may be concerned about concussions and the risks they pose to your child’s health. By taking an active interest in your child’s sport, you can help create a culture of safety for your young athlete and their teammates.

3 ways parents can promote safe play

You can make a difference even if you don’t coach your child’s team or know a lot about sports. The key is to be involved—and to talk with your child and the coaches about their approach to safety. Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  1. Chat with the coach. Many coaches teach their players ways to reduce the risk of concussions. If your child is thinking of joining a team, ask the coaches what they do to promote safe play.
  2. Teach rules and respect. Many sports have rules against unsafe play—such as hits to the head and headfirst tackling. Insist that your athlete (and other kids, if you help out with coaching) follow all the rules. Also, be sure to praise your child for playing fairly and showing respect for the safety of others.
  3. Report concussion symptoms. Encourage your child to report all head injuries and any concussion symptoms to the coach—and to you—right away. That’s more important than the outcome of any game. If you think your child may have a concussion, take them out of play or practice—and call a doctor.

Signs of concussion in children

Watch for these behaviors after any hit, fall, or jolt to the head or body. According to the CDC, an athlete with a concussion may:

  • Look dazed or stunned.
  • Seem confused about the game, score or other team.
  • Move clumsily.
  • Answer questions slowly.
  • Lose consciousness.
  • Show mood or personality changes.
  • Have trouble remembering what happened before or after the injury.
  • Have headaches, nausea or dizziness.
  • Have blurred or double vision.
  • Feel unusually tired.
  • Be sensitive to light or noise.

Pay attention—even if your child says something like, “I just don’t feel right,” that’s cause for concern.

‘Better to miss one game’

If your child does get a concussion, a doctor or other health care provider needs to say it’s safe to return to play. Remember, a concussion is a brain injury. Returning too soon could lead to a second concussion before your child has recovered from the first. That’s a potentially deadly risk.  

Watching from the sidelines can be hard for any athlete. But it’s for the best. Remind your child that it’s better to miss one game than the whole season.

What is CTE?

Repeat concussions—even mild ones—can have life-changing consequences. You may have heard some pro athletes with repeated head injuries talking about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Learn more about it.