Participating in team and individual sport programs can help children develop their fine and gross motor skills as well as improve their social skills and confidence. Sport is a great way to make friends, learn to wait and take turns as well as build resilience. As care givers we need to be aware of possible injuries, especially concussion.
Injuries are always a potential when playing sport however head injuries can have a long term impact on the brain. Over the last decade a significant level of research has been conducted in sport-based injuries to the brain, either to professional athletes (e.g. 40% of former NFL players show brain injuries, cyclists have the highest proportion of sports-related brain injuries, etc) or to adults or children playing sports. As public awareness increases on this issue people are reporting more often to emergency rooms after such injuries, which has seen an increase in reported concussions, both in the USA, and in other nations. The New York Times had a great article on this issue recently, with reference to a recent study in Sweden which tracked over 1 million children up to their 25th birthday, comparing Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) (concussion is a mild TBI) against multiple medical and social outcomes. Over 9% of children sustained a lasting TBI, and out of these 9% of children the following was statistically identified:
- Lower life expectancy
- Higher chance of psychiatric issues.
- Higher chance of low education attainment.
- Higher chance of needing government support
These risks increased depending on the severity of the injury, recurrence and the age of the first injury. This study shows that even one TBI can have a serious impact on future growth. As per the Mayo Clinic, CDC and Brainline the best way to minimize the potential of a concussion or other more serious TBI when playing sports is to:
- Use helmets and/or appropriate head gear for the following sports: Baseball / Softball (when batting), Cycling, Football, Hockey, Horseback Riding, Skateboards/Scooters, Skiing, Sand Boarding, Wrestling, Martial Arts, Soccer and any other sports that may involve head contact.
- Ensure that any helmet or head gear that is used has met the required safety standards in your country: e.g. SNELL/ECE 22.05 in EU and globally, ASTM/DOT in USA, AS in Australia, SIRIM in Malaysia, TIS in Thailand, PSB in Singapore, IS 4151 in India, etc.
- Supervise younger children at all times, and do not let them use sporting equipment or play sports unsuitable for their age.
- Do not let children climb high equipment on playgrounds with hard surface grounds.
- Do not dive in water less than 3.5 m / 12 feet deep or in above-ground pools. Check the depth and check for debris in the water before diving.
- Do not participate in sports when you are ill or very tired, this makes it more likely that you will make a mistake or misjudgement.
- Avoid uneven or unpaved surfaces when cycling, skateboarding, or in-line skating.
- Perform regular safety checks of sports fields, playgrounds and equipment.
- Discard and replace sporting equipment or protective gear that is damaged, or has been involved in any previous accident.
Of course these injuries can also occur during other activities, most importantly ensure that Child Car Safety Restraints are used, slip and trip hazards at home are removed, installing window guards to keep young children from falling out of open windows and use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs when children are around.
UptoDate (one of our favorite health websites as per our research policy) has a good article on head injuries in children. In particular if any of the following symptoms are seen after a head injury, see a medical practitioner immediately:
- If you have any doubts about your child’s condition, always see a doctor.
- If the child has recurrent vomiting.
- If the child has a seizure (convulsion).
- If the child loses consciousness after the injury.
- If the child develops a headache that is severe or worsens with time.
- If there are changes in the child’s behavior (eg, lethargic, difficult to wake, extremely irritable, or exhibiting other abnormal behavior).
- If the child stumbles, or difficulty walking, clumsiness, or lack of coordination.
- If the child is confused or has slurred speech.
- If the child has dizziness that does not resolve or recurs repeatedly.
- If blood or watery fluid oozes from the nose or ears.
- If the child is younger than six months of age.
- If a cut will not stop bleeding after applying pressure for 10 minutes.
- If the child fell from a height greater than 1-1.5m / 3-5 feet, was hit with a high speed object, or was hit with great force.
Safety equipment has the potential to make a major injury a minor one when it is fitted and used correctly.
Maree has over five years of experience in Occupational Health and Safety and in the development of safety standards, training workshops and improvement initiatives. She is passionate about health, safety and education. Maree, a mother of two children, has a Advanced Diploma in OHS and will be graduating soon with a B.Sc. (HSE) from Australia.