If your child plays middle school or high school sports, chances
are you've seen them or a teammate take a hard hit and wondered if
they suffered a concussion. But a recent poll finds that while
nearly two-thirds of parents of young athletes, 12-17, worry their
children will get a concussion while playing sports, half don't
know if their children's school has a concussion policy.
It's worth asking. Over the past few years, researchers have
found that youth athletes are more likely to sustain
concussions-and take longer to recover from them-than adults. If a
second concussion occurs before a child's brain recovers from the
first, there is a greater chance of long-term neurological
At Downers Grove South High School, athletes' parents attend
presentations on concussions and all athletes undergo concussion
testing. Each athlete takes a computerized test lasting 25-40
minutes, which gives the school a baseline for things such as the
teen's response, memory and reaction time. If there's a possibility
they might have sustained a concussion, the athlete takes a second
test. Results from both tests are printed out for the teen's doctor
"The nice thing about this is it's a very objective tool. It
tells you in black and white if there's a discrepancy between
memory and reaction time, things like that," says Mary Ann
Frontzak, the athletic trainer who oversees all the testing at the
Even more important, it helps head off a second concussion
occurring before the first has healed. Secondary concussions can
have catastrophic results, including death and permanent
Frontzak says coaches and parents are beginning to understand
the importance of preventing multiple concussions. "Even though
coaches aren't happy when their athlete is told to sit out and
heal, they are more understanding about why it needs to be done,"
she says. "Better to sit out one or two games than to never
properly function again."
For more information on concussion testing, visit sportsconcussiontesting.com or call Frontzak at
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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