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Warning signs of student-athlete concussions

November 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
While there's been more awareness when it comes to kids and concussions, many parents and coaches still may not know exactly what to do after a child is injured. A local hospital offers a special clinic just to tackle the increasing problem.

A bump, blow or jolt to the head can cause a brain bruise, or concussion. With autumn games and practices under way, California's new concussion law is getting quite a workout.

He's balancing well now, but 16-year-old Spencer Rouse was definitely off-kilter after a helmet-to-helmet collision on Labor Day.

"The coach knew something was wrong because I stayed down a little," said Spencer.

"He kinda came up and immediately felt very emotional," said Dr. Tracy Zaslow, Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

"I don't know why I got emotional, but I did," said Spencer.

Concussion can cause more than fatigue, nausea and vomiting. While most athletes prefer to stay in the game, Spencer's coaches immediately sent the Loyola High School defensive end to Children's Hospital Los Angeles. It has a unit specifically dedicated to evaluating and treating athletic pediatric concussions.

"Symptoms and signs last much longer in children versus adults," said Zaslow. "And where we say 'bones heal faster in kids than adults,' it's the exact opposite for concussions."

Since California implemented its new concussion policy for students in January, Dr. Zaslow says she's seen the number of concussion diagnoses go up, which is a good thing, especially for players like Spencer.

"He underwent a supervised return, where it was stepwise increasing his level of activity," said Zaslow.

Zaslow says prevention is just as important.

"Making sure to hit appropriately, so not going in head first, and making sure to get strength through the neck so that when they do go in for a hit, that the head's not flinging back," said Zaslow.

Experts remind us that just because you're wearing a helmet doesn't mean you won't get a concussion.

Areas of concern:

- Problems with thinking/remembering, difficulty concentrating
- Physical issues such as balance, and sensitivity to light
- Being more emotional, experiencing unusual moods, being nervous
- Sleep disturbance, by sleeping either more or less than usual.

Catching signs early can make a difference in recovery.


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