Children and Concussions

Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member and partner

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A growing awareness of the dangers of concussions among children has recently become a bigger concern for parents with children involved in sports. Evidence suggests that not only does a concussion affect a child's sports performance, it also has an impact on the daily life of that child.

The Committee of Sports-Related Concussions, a project by The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, part of the non-profit, private National Academy of Sciences, jointly issued a report urging "more research on younger athletes and establishment of a national system to monitor how often they are getting concussed." The report indicates that even with limited data available regarding children's sports injuries, sports-related concussions are a significant public-health issue. In addition, the culture of resistance among athletes prevents many children from even reporting an injury. Although helmets are used for football, protecting against skull fractures, there is limited evidence that current helmet designs reduce concussion risks.

The concussion report was sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Education, Health and Human Services Administration, the National Athletic Trainers Association Research and Education Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the CDC Foundation (via a grant from the National Football League).

Recommendations by the committee include:

  • "The CDC should set a national surveillance system to determine the rate sports-related concussions among youth, and include data on protective equipment, causes and extent of the injuries.
  • The National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense should support research to improve concussion diagnosis and create age-specific guidelines for managing concussions.
  • National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense should conduct studies on effects of concussion and repetitive head impacts over a life span. To aid this research, the National Institutes of Health should maintain a national brain tissue bank.
  • The NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations 'should undertake a rigorous scientific evaluation of the effectiveness of age-appropriate techniques, rules and playing and practice standards in reducing sports-related concussions.'
  • The National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense should fund research on age- and sex-related variants in risk for concussions.
  • The NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations, in conjunction with other groups, should develop 'large-scale efforts to increase knowledge about concussions and change the culture (social norms, attitudes, and behaviors) surrounding concussions among elementary through college-aged youth and their parent, coaches, sports officials, educators, trainers, and health care professionals.' "

A recent issue of Pediatrics, the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, outlines some guidelines for physicians in assisting students who have experienced concussions return to the classroom successfully:

  • "In the short term, students who have a concussion may need to have their academic workload adjusted so that the brain is not overtaxed and symptoms do not worsen. Cognitive rest could include a break from electronic devices as well.
  • Since most concussion symptoms improve within 3 weeks, academic adjustments can often be made without a formal written plan. If symptoms persist beyond that time, students could benefit from a more detailed medical assessment and a formal education strategy (such as an Americans with Disabilities Act "Section 504" plan).
  • Ideally, students would be assisted in their return to the classroom by a multidisciplinary team that includes people from the medical community, school, and family.
  • Students should be performing at their baseline academic level before they return to extracurricular activities, including sports."

Neither the report issued by the Committee of Sports-Related Concussions nor the guidelines offered by the American Academy of Pediatricians will answer all parent questions regarding choosing a sport or equipment for their child. Parents, make the best decision possible based on the knowledge available at the time and follow medical advice in determining if or when your child should return to sports activities following a concussion.

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About the author:

Mr. Zambri is a board-certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocates and a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. The association recently named him "Trial Lawyer of the Year" (2011).  He has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a "Big Gun" and among the "top 100" lawyers (out of more than 80,000 attorneys) in the entire metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as "one of Washington's best--most honest and effective lawyers" who specializes in personal injury matters, including automobile accident claims, premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, and work-accident claims. He has successfully litigated multiple cases against truck and bus companies, the Washington Metropolitan Area transit Authority, and other automobile owners.  His law firm, in fact, has obtained the largest settlement ever in a personal injury case involving WMATA.  Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged as one of "The Best Lawyers in America" by Best Lawyers (2014 edition) and has been repeatedly named a "Super Lawyer" by Super Lawyer magazine (March/April 2013)-- national publications that honor the top lawyers in America.

If you have any questions about your legal rights, please email Mr. Zambri at szambri@reganfirm.com or call him at 202-822-1899.

 

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