Over recent years, the correlation between sports and head injuries has been well-documented, especially when it comes to football. CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative brain disease associated with repeated brain trauma often suffered by athletes, has been making headlines for showing a correlation to suicide, aggressive behavior, depression, and impulse control problems. It has been suggested that CTE may have been to blame for the suicide of famed Chargers linebacker, Junior Seau, and also may have played a part in the violent outbursts and eventual suicide of former Patriots tight end, Aaron Hernandez.

CTE is not the only worry when it comes to sports and brain injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, contribute to roughly 30% of all injury related deaths in the U.S.  The effects of suffering a sports-related TBI can last only a few days or end up being lifelong.

TBI and High School Sports

During the 2016-17 school year, nearly 8 million boys and girls played high school sports in the U.S. The benefits of school sports can be many. They help kids learn to work as a team, create camaraderie, keep kids active, and can be a fun alternative to sitting in front of a TV or computer, but the risk for TBI is still present. According to the Youth Sports Safety Alliance, youth sports related concussions have increased by 200% of the last decade.

Most Dangerous High School Sports for Brain Injuries

 The TBI risk associated with high school sports varies dramatically depending on the nature of the sport itself. While football is the leading high school sport resulting in brain injury, other sports like ice-hockey and soccer also top the list. A study based on 2012 concussion statistics ranks the high school sports with the highest likelihood of concussion. The metrics are based on the number of concussions per 100,000 athletic exposures.

  1. Football: 64 – 76.8
  2. Boy’s ice-hockey: 54
  3. Girl’s soccer: 33
  4. Boy’s lacrosse: 40 – 46.6
  5. Girl’s lacrosse: 31 – 35
  6. Boy’s soccer: 19 – 19.2
  7. Boy’s wrestling: 22 – 23.9
  8. Girl’s basketball: 18.6 – 21
  9. Girl’s softball: 16 – 16.3
  10. Boy’s basketball: 16 – 21.2

What Can Parents Do to Help Their Kids Prevent Brain Injury from Sports?

Changes to laws and practices to prevent brain injuries in youth sports is slow going, but parents, coaches, and players can take steps to protect themselves and still enjoy the sport. The benefits of school sports may outweigh the risk for some families. For those who want their kids to play school sports, these are ways you can help your child stay safe:

  • Teach your kids about brain injuries: Young athletes that don’t know the signs or dangers of a concussion, may choose to continue playing rather than taking care of their brain. Teaching your kids about the serious dangers and the signs of a possible concussion could be paramount to getting them the medical care they need in the event of a TBI. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created tools and an app to educate kids on the dangers and signs of a concussion.
  • Inspire your kids to use good sportsmanship. Oftentimes a brain injury can be prevented. In sports like soccer and football where aggression is common, it’s important to use restraint when tackling or pursuing another player. This could potentially prevent brain or other injuries to all players involved.
  • Have a concussion plan in place. Educating your child and having a set plan in place in the event of a concussion will help everyone including yourself, your child, and their coach, to understand how a brain injury will be handled. Listen to doctors orders after a suspected concussion and inform your child and their coach he or she will not be returning to practice until they have permission from their doctor.

While sports can be a positive aspect of a child’s life, it is important for parents to stay vigilant when it comes to preventing and treating possible brain injuries. Knowing the signs, working with doctors, educating your kids on the dangers of TBI, and working hand in hand with their coaches could help lessen the chance of your child suffering a brain injury. If you have questions about a brain injury case contact Heenan & Cook, PLLC for a free consultation.