Dr. Robert C. Cantu, M.D., studied the effects of concussions on children who play contact sports and published his findings in a book called Concussions and Our Kids.
A concussion causes the brain to shake inside the skull, resulting in a change in alertness of the injured individual. The change can be relatively mild or so intense that a person loses consciousness.
Dr. Cantu says a concussion can occur without getting hit in the head. In this instance, a concussion occurs when an athlete is shaken so roughly that his head or shoulders violently changes speed or direction.
The most damaging type of force to the head is a rotational acceleration which occurs when the brain is hit, goes off center and rotates or spins, according to the study. A concussion can also result from linear acceleration which occurs when the brain moves back and forth in a straight line or from side to side in one direction.
A concussion can cause such symptoms as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, depression, irritability and nervousness.
According to Dr. Cantu, youths have concussions more than adults because they have less myelin in their brains. Myelin is a fatty substance that helps the brain absorb a shock. Children’s heads and brains are also disproportionately large for their bodies, which means that they cannot brace for an impact in the same manner as adults. Repeated head trauma can result in degeneration of brain tissue and an abnormal protein accumulation similar to that found in Alzheimer’s patients.
Dr. Cantu recommends:
- No tackle football and no “heading” for soccer for athletes under 14 years old.
- Raising the ban on body checking in ice hockey from 13 years old to 14 years old.
- Mandatory chin straps for batting helmets.
- Banning youth and high school baseball players from sliding head first toward a base.
- Making it mandatory for girls playing field hockey and lacrosse to have full-coverage helmets.
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