The only gridiron action 13-year-old Kidane Falconer is seeing these days is from the family room couch. Last year, the young football fanatic suffered two concussions while playing the sport.
"I banged my head against the ground like that and I thought it was gonig to be a quick, I'm dizzy and get back up and play," said Falconer.
But something was wrong. He had severe headaches for weeks. Finally he was cleared to go back and then another concussion. This time it was worse. He missed school and was plagued with symptoms including mood swings and trouble processing information.
"It's been a long drawn-out process getting back to some semblance of normal," said Keysha Beaumont, mother.
It's stories such as Falconer's that have a lot of parents worried to the point of panic, some even benching their children from sports all together.
"I always joking that I spend all day in my office talking parents off the ledge, and they need to educate themselves," said Elizabeth Pieroth, PsyD, neuropsychologist, NorthShore University HealthSystem.
Dr. Pieroth specializes in evaluating concussion patients. She's not convinced the danger has increased. She suspects, as do other doctors, a lot has to do with heightened awareness. Even one concussion can be dangerous if not diagnosed and treated.
"Basically it's an energy crisis of the brain and when it's managed well kids we know that kids recover and adults recover from concussion," said Dr. Pieroth.
Pieroth and her husband are comfortable letting their two young boys play contact sports. She says it's all about balancing the risks of a sport for an individual child with the rewards. Her advice: know what steps are being taken to keep your child safe. Will players be pulled immediately if concussion is suspected? Will they be taught how to play safely such as not tackling with their heads down? For school sports, find out if there is testing before and after an injury to evaluate a player's brain. And parents should be on the look-out for some of the lesser known signs of concussion which may not show up for a day or two later.
"They want to look for headaches, they want to look for dizziness they want to look for sensitivity to light and sound," said Pieroth.
Falconers mother says no more football for her son but she hasn't ruled out other sports.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
NorthShore Univ. HealthSystem