Parent awareness of concussion risks can protect kids

January 28, 2013 9:41:42 AM PST
Ten percent of athletes will experience a concussion in any given sport season. Many parents worry about dangerous head injuries- with good reason.

Experts say learning more about this common injury can help.

Hollie Byer knows what it's like to play with pain. She's suffered four concussions.

"I remember just feeling so nauseous after the game," she said.

The injuries have worried her mom. "I think about it even before she goes on the field, the night before she goes on the field," said Anita Byer, mom.

Dr. Kevin Crutchfield says there are many myths about concussions parents should know. The first myth- you have to lose consciousness to get one.

"That's not true at all. You don't even have to hit your head to have a concussion," said Dr. Crutchfield, who is a neurologist at LifeBridge Health in Baltimore.

Another myth- if someone has a concussion, you should keep them awake. On the contrary, Dr. Crutchfield says sleeping- or resting the brain- is best for healing.

The next common myth, he says, is that everyone who hits their head needs a brain scan. In fact, for children, he says radiation from a scan can be more dangerous than the head injury itself.

"Their risk of having a surgical lesion and having to go to the OR is dramatically less than your child developing thyroid cancer from the exposure to radiation," he said.

Dr. Crutchfield also said helmets do not protect against concussions. They're designed only to prevent skull fractures.

"A helmet can never stop the brain from shaking inside the head," he said.

The last myth- boys get more concussions than girls. Actually, the rates are similar among the sexes. Symptoms may vary, with boys experiencing things like balance problems. Girls, on the other hand, may suffer fatigue or low energy after a concussion.

The younger Byer knows the dangers- but says she can't stay away from the game she loves.

"I'm not really afraid to be out on that field because I think that's where I was meant to be," she said.

She adds that she hopes to make it through this season injury-free.