Sports Concussions Versus Benefits of Youth Sports Participation
Organised sports activities for middle school and high school students often play a major role in the life of adolescents. Whether they play only at school or in after-school organised sports, participation in active physical sports generally enhances the young person’s life.
There are also risks encountered by youth who participate in sports activities. Perhaps the most serious risk that comes with playing contact sports is that of a sports concussion.
Benefits to Youth of Sports Participation
University of Missouri Health Care, the adolescent medicine team, promotes sports participation for children of all ages. It notes that physical exercise is necessary for the health of the “mind, body, and spirit. Team sports such as rugby, football, and baseball help teach adolescents accountability, dedication, leadership and other skills.”
Some specific benefits include:
- Improved academic scores. Instead of distracting students as some may think, sports teach children memorisation, repetition, and learning. These skills transfer to the classroom.
- Learning teamwork and problem-solving skills. Playing on a team where the group has a common goal requires communication to solve a problem. These are good skills for children to learn and incorporate into the rest of their lives.
- Physical health. Physical exercise that comes with playing sports helps children reach their fitness goals. They learn healthy habits, such as not smoking or drinking, and also lessens their chance of developing osteoporosis and breast cancer in their life.
- Increases self-esteem. As students become adept at their chosen sport, they learn to feel good about themselves and their achievements when playing sports. This transfers to how they live their daily life and into the classroom for improved grades.
Despite all the benefits, there are some risks to consider when choosing to play sports or in choosing the sport that is best for each child.
Risks of a Sports Concussion
A recent study was conducted of 10,334 student athletes and of players in 12 different sports. The purpose was to determine the risk of sports concussions among youth athletes.
Some interesting statistics emerged.
- More than 12 percent of young athletes ages 13 to 18 suffered a concussion while playing sports.
- Athletes aged 18 suffered more than twice as many concussions as 13-year-olds.
- Girls had a 1.5 times concussion risk when compared to boys.
- Those who experienced one concussion were 3-5 times at greater risk for suffering a subsequent sports concussion when compared to those who never experienced one.
Sports with the highest rate of concussions were, in order:
- Wrestling and martial arts.
- Track and field.
Football players in any position on the field had the same level of risk.
The study concluded that there is an increasing trend for sports concussions. That may be due to the fact that more young people are playing sports than played in the past.
Also, there is more public attention concerning sports medicine and concussions in sports. There are also new protocols for concussion management that call more attention to the need for better treatment of those players who suffer a concussion, and the need for sports concussion prevention solutions.
On the issue of subsequent concussions, the study noted that one concussion, even if mild, “results not only in immediate physiological changes but may affect neuronal plasticity and increase the risk for a subsequent concussion.” The capacity of the brain to respond to another head injury is compromised, which makes it more susceptible to another concussion.
Subsequent concussions may also be due to more aggressive and experienced players who participate in more games which increases their exposure to injury, and therefore they suffer more sports concussions.