Why do 20 percent of teens say they’ve had a concussion?

12:00 a.m. Friday, Oct. 27, 2017 Lifestyle
Girls actually have a higher rate of concussion than boys, although football is still the top concussion-causing sport, followed by boys lacrosse and girls soccer. It’s all that running into one another that causes the brain to be thrown around in the skull. Stephen Spillman for American-Statesman

A new study in the Journal of American Medical Association from the University of Michigan asked students in grades eighth, ninth and 10th if they had ever had a concussion. Almost 20 percent said they had.

What’s going on with our teens? Is it all sports-related?

Dr. Robert Vezzetti, a pediatric emergency medicine doctor at Dell Children’s Medical Center, says part of what’s going on is that we’re doing a better job of educating parents, coaches and students about what a concussion is, leading to more diagnoses.

A concussion is basically “taking your brain and shaking it,” he says. That releases inflammatory particles that damage the brain. You might feel nausea or vomit, have a headache, have blurry vision, feel achy or fatigued.

Many people think that if you have a concussion you would pass out. That’s not the case with all concussions, he says.

You also don’t have to have one large hit. It could be a series of hits.

Concussions also don’t only happen to football players on the field. Girls in sports actually have higher rates of concussions, and their concussion symptoms last longer.

Vezzetti also sees plenty of kids come in with concussions that had nothing to do with playing sports. It depends on the time of the year. Yes, in August and September, he might see more kids with sports-related concussions, but in other times of the year it could be hitting your head while diving into a pool, falling from a playground or from a car accident.

“You can get a concussion just by falling down or running into a door,” he says.

If you think your young football player is safe because he has a helmet, know this: A helmet doesn’t protect from concussion. It can prevent a skull fracture or a bleed in the brain, but a concussion is about the movement of the brain within the skull. A helmet can’t protect against that.

Vezzetti does have these recommendations to limit your concussion risk:

Once a child has a concussion, he or she should avoid physical activity, limit screen time and be allowed extra time to do homework.

Some kids will be better within days, others take weeks, he says. Dell Children’s has a concussion clinic to help them return to activity.

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