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Catching signs of concussion in kid athletes

January 27, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Sports can be physically rough for kids, and what may seem like a minor bump in the head could actually turn into a concussion. Being able to recognize the signs of a concussion is the key to preventing more serious injuries.

High school student Chloe Jeng's got a wicked wrist shot. But a shot to her head during a club lacrosse game is what ruined her season.

"I actually kept playing because I had the ball and I didn't really think anything had happened," said Jeng.

But something had happened - a concussion, which put Jeng on the bench for months. One million kids suffer similar concussions each year.

"I mostly just wanted to get back in the game and start playing again," said Jeng.

It's good she didn't. Eighty percent of all concussion cases are diagnosed as mild. But 75 percent of patients don't seek medical help unless their condition gets worse.

"You can't take sports away from everybody, you can't take being in-or-near a motor vehicle away from everybody," said Dr. Michael Yochelson, a neurologist at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Yochelson says spotting brain injuries are key, with the biggest tip-off being failure to remember the injury.

"Symptoms to look for include headache, dizziness, nausea, trouble thinking," said Dr. Yochelson.

One concussion, then another too soon could lead to second impact syndrome, which could lead to death. Sadly, 40 percent of prep athletes return from concussions before they're fully healed.

Jeng sat out the rest of the lacrosse season.

"It was kind of rough at first, but it was definitely worth it," she said.

Now she's thinking about picking up her old ice hockey stick next year.

"You just want to play as hard as you can, you don't really think about it anymore," Jeng said.

Her rule now is to have fun, but know when to slow down.