SALT LAKE CITY - New data from the Utah Department of Health Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that in 2013, more than a third of high school students who played sports and had symptoms of a concussion never told anyone.
Health officials warn that all concussions are serious. Parents, coaches, and young athletes need to ensure they are taking safety precautions to prevent head injuries.
Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. In 2010, 5,719 Utahns were treated in an emergency department for a concussion. Of these, 28.8% were due to sports and recreational activities like team sports, skiing and snowboarding, bicycle crashes, skateboarding crashes, off-highway vehicle crashes, etc.
"All concussions are serious. Parents, coaches, teachers, and especially young athletes must understand that while they may look and feel fine, recovery often takes a long time. It's critical that the brain has a chance to heal," said Antonietta Russo, neuropsychologist with the Intermountain Neuro Specialty Clinic at TOSH. "Remember, it's better to miss one game than an entire season. And better to miss the season than risk your life and future."
According to UDOH data, in 2013, more than one in six high school students who played sports said they were told by a doctor that they had a concussion or symptoms of a concussion and 15.3 percent reported they were removed from play by a coach because a concussion was suspected.
In 2011, the Utah State Legislature passed a law requiring amateur sports organizations and schools to enforce a concussion policy and to get written approval of the policy by parents before their child participates in a sport activity. A child who gets a head injury must be removed from play and may return only after getting written clearance from a qualified health care provider.
Parents, coaches, and young athletes can take the following steps to prevent concussions:
* Wear a helmet when riding an off-highway vehicle, bicycle, skateboard, or scooter; playing a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey, or boxing; using inline skates or riding a skateboard; batting and running bases in baseball or softball; riding a horse; or skiing or snowboarding.
* Ask your league, school, or district about concussion policies. Utah law requires youth sports organizations to have a concussion policy.
* Teach and practice safe playing techniques. Follow all rules pertaining to your sport.
* Teach athletes it's not smart to play with a concussion. When an athlete has a concussion, the brain needs time to heal. Don't let your athlete return to play until a health care professional, experienced in evaluating for concussion, says they are symptom-free and it's OK to return to play. The average recovery time for a young athlete is 3-4 weeks.
* Replace damaged equipment promptly, especially helmets and other protective head gear. Some helmets require replacing after any impact, even if there are no visible signs of damage.
With the national controversy surrounding professional athletes and concussions, the Brain Injury Alliance of Utah and KUED will be hosting a free screening of Frontline's League of Denial: The NFL Concussion Crisis on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at The City Library, 210 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City. This special, two-hour investigation reveals the hidden story of the NFL and how football may have led to long-term brain injuries in thousands of athletes. A panel discussion with the state's leading concussion experts will follow the screening.
For more information on sports concussions, visit http://www.health.utah.gov/vipp.