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Young Athletes Ignore Concussion Signs, Continue to Play

Update Date: May 06, 2013 03:51 PM EDT

Despite recent research into the possible dangers of sport-related concussions, young athletes are choosing to ignore the symptoms of concussions as they eagerly return to the field. Current studies have looked into the brains of deceased professional athletes that suffered from head tackles and concussions, and found that a great deal of brain damage could occur from repeated hits to the head. Several professional football players have stated that they would donate their brains to research so that more can be known about the dangers of playing a rough contact sport. Even though professional athletes and scientists have expressed their concerns over concussions, a new study reports that young athletes might not inform their coaches about their concussion symptoms in order to continue competing.

The research team composed of physicians from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio recruited 120 high school football players. The participants were given a questionnaire that asked about concussions, injuries, education, and other sports related issues. They found that 30 athletes reported experiencing a concussion while 82 athletes stated that they received information about concussions before experiencing one. The majority of the athletes were successful in identifying concussion symptoms, which included headaches, dizziness, memory complications, concentration issues, and increased sensitivity to light and sound. Over 90 percent of the participants knew the risks of playing with concussion symptoms. However, despite knowing the risk factors, 53 percent of the athletes admitted that they would "always or sometimes continue to play with a headache sustained from an injury." 54 percent of the athletes stated that they would report their symptoms to their coach.

"We aren't yet at the point where we can make specific policy recommendations for sports teams, but this study raises concerns that young athlete may not report symptoms of concussion," Brit Anderson, MD stated. Anderson is an emergency medicine fellow at the medical center and is the lead author of the study. "Other approaches, such as an increased use of sideline screening by coaches or athletic trainers, might be needed to identify injured athletes."

The fact that teenagers willingly play with symptoms despite knowing the possible risk to future injuries is alarming. This study suggests that there must be new ways for diagnosing athletes so that coaches are not relying on the athletes alone. Nearly 3.8 million concussions occur within the United States, with roughly 8.9 percent of them occurring in high school athletes.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Washington, DC. 

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