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    New School Year Signals Need for Heightened Attention to Sports Concussions

    Contact: Amy Weitz, 510-206-1855
    weitza@sutterhealth.org

    Parents and coaches often quick to have child return to sports after head injury

    San Francisco – August 30, 2012 – With the new school year underway and students returning to a wide array of sports activities, doctors are warning parents and coaches about the need to protect students from a host of potential injuries, and to pay special attention to the risk of concussion and particularly the danger of a repeated impact.

    “What we’ve found is that many coaches and even parents think that getting hit in the head is just a normal part of playing sports, and that if the child is wearing a helmet, he or she is protected from serious harm,” said Farhad Sahebkar, MD, a pediatric neurologist with the Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation who runs the Pediatric Concussion Clinic at California Pacific Medical Center, part of the Sutter Health network. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he explained. “But even more alarming is the number of kids who return to sports activities too soon after a concussion or other head injury. Those youngsters run the risk of serious long-term problems.”

    Recent legislation is meant to prevent some of these more profound injuries. A California law that went into effect last January requires that students who sustain a head injury during a sports activity be removed from the activity immediately and given clearance by an appropriate medical professional before being allowed to return to any contact sport. And a new law that goes into effect this coming January will require that California high school coaches undergo concussion training.

    Dr. Sahebkar says that the importance of assessing a child with a concussion before he or she returns to a sports activity cannot be overstated. “Just because the child feels OK and doesn’t exhibit any obvious symptoms doesn’t mean that he or she is good to go,” he said. “It’s imperative that all medical signs of the concussion are gone, and that there be a recovery period after that. If a second impact occurs before there’s a full recovery, the consequences can be severe.”

    Second Impact Syndrome more serious for youth

    The condition known as ‘second impact syndrome’ can cause a host of serious problems, including cerebral swelling, cognitive impairment, memory loss or even death. And Dr. Sahebkar pointed out that young brains work differently than those of adults, and that this syndrome can cause more serious damage in children and teens.

    “We often have to convince parents that their child is not ready to return to the activity – the risks are just too great,” Dr. Sahebkar said. He recommends that student athletes receive a complete evaluation following any head injury and develop a treatment plan, and that the return to sports be done on a gradual basis. He also suggests athletes get a baseline test before starting any contact sports activity that can serve as a gauge for any tests performed following a concussion.

    See further information on concussions.

    About Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation
    Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation is a group of 240+ doctors who offer primary, specialty and complex medical care. Our physicians in San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Lake and Del Norte counties combine the latest in medical technology with personalized care. As part of the Sutter Health not-for-profit network, Sutter Pacific doctors are affiliated with some of the most respected hospitals in the region and provide care in local communities. Additionally, our San Francisco-based doctors are part of Brown & Toland Physicians. For more information or to find a doctor near you, visit www.sutterpacific.org or call 1-888-699-DOCS (3627).