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Parents of football players: how you can prevent brain damage from concussions

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  September 5, 2012 03:56 PM

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There's news out today about a study that showed that professional football players are at higher risk of death from diseases that damage cells in the brain. Researchers think this is because of chronic traumatic encephalopathy--which is what happens when you get many concussions.

There's been a lot of talk recently about preventing concussions in athletes--especially football players. I'm really glad that people are taking this so seriously; as this most recent study underlines, those bumps to the head that we used to think were nothing, that we used to expect players to shrug off and get over, can cause lasting brain damage.

If your kid plays football, here's what you can do to keep his (or her) brain safe and healthy (hopefully you know this already):

Make sure your child has and uses the appropriate safety gear, especially a helmet. Make sure all safety gear fits and is worn properly.

Make sure your child's coach is educated about concussions and how to prevent them--and that he or she enforces safe play rules. Ask for details about how they and the league are going to protect your child. Winning should never be at the cost of anyone's brain. 

Know the symptoms of concussion. They include:
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • sleepiness
  • nausea
  • fatigue
  • confusion, or memory loss
  • clumsiness, trouble with balance or difficulty doing normal activities
If your child has any of these symptoms, do not let them back in the game. This is crucial. I don't care if it's the championship game or the college recruiter is there. They must stop playing.

If you think your child might have had a concussion, call your doctor. It's important to get medical attention after a concussion.

Follow your doctor's instructions to the letter. Recovery from concussion requires rest--physical rest, and mental rest too. It can be boring and frustrating sometimes, but it's really important not to rush recovery. Your child may be itchy to get back to playing, but it's just not worth the risk.

Learn about concussions and concussion prevention. Visit the Boston Children's Hospital Concussion page and the Heads Up page of the Centers for Disease Control website.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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