Growing up, soccer was a huge part of my life. I started playing when I was five and decided it was the only sport for me. I continued through my teen years, playing for high school and competitively where things seemed to get strikingly more aggressive (see what I did there?).
There is no question that participation in athletic programs provides an array of benefits, both for individual athletes and our society as a whole. Sports can go a long way in helping kids, youths and adults stay active, teaching the values of teamwork and building character. However, like most things in life, these benefits don’t come without some risk, including the risk of concussion.
With the 2015 Women’s World Cup season underway, concussions were bound to be in the cards for some of the players on the field.
During the semifinals on a free kick by Germany in the 28th minute, USA’s Morgan Brian and Germany’s Alexandra Popp jumped for the ball at the far post – only to strike heads midair.
This collision on the field has brought up many conversations regarding FIFA rules and regulations when it comes to concussions. But what are precautions these athletes can take to prevent injuries like this from happening again?
“Before beginning any sports program, athletes should undergo baseline testing for concussion to get a snapshot of their ‘normal’ brain function in a non-injured state,” explained Dr. Erickson. “Being armed with this understanding of one’s individual brain function can go a long way in measuring and understanding the impact of an injury.”
Next on the list of prevention strategies is wearing sport-specific protective equipment, including approved and properly fitted helmets. In addition, athletes should learn and practice appropriate techniques for avoiding unnecessary head contact to prevent injury and trauma on the field.
Dr. Erickson explains that, if a head injury does occur, seek immediate medical attention. Accurate and timely evaluation, diagnosis and management are essential to preventing adverse consequences of concussion. Unfortunately, many concussions go unrecognized, untreated and even undermanaged. Know the signs and symptoms of concussion. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Numbness or tingling
- Balance difficulties
- Changes in vision such as blurred vision or double vision; and drowsiness.
If you or your teammate is found to have suffered a concussion, make certain he or she does not return to the field until released by a medical professional and that all symptoms have cleared – both at rest and with exertion. Suffering a second concussion before the first has thoroughly and properly healed poses a significant health risk and may lead to long-term damage. While recovery time varies greatly from person to person, children and adolescents typically recover from concussion within 14 to 21 days.
Concussions, particularly among young athletes, are a serious matter. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to learn more about the risks of concussion and prevention tips.
Fingers crossed that there will be no head injuries when the U.S. plays Japan for the Women’s World Cup title on Sunday. And remember to tune in, wear your red, white & blue and cheer on our girls!