Some of the most common but serious sports injuries are mild traumatic brain injuries, more commonly known as concussions. Concussions occur in around 300,000 high school athletes every year – a number that has doubled since 2005. And high school students seem the most prone to the injury, with 16.5% of all students ages 15-19 getting concussions. At Kaiser alone, four people have been struck down with concussions this month. More surprising is the disproportionate amount of girls with concussions compared to boys. According to a recent US study, girls are 50% more likely to suffer from a concussion than their male counterparts.
The word ‘concussion’ likely brings to mind football, a sport where contact with other players is happening every minute. However, girls’ soccer sits at the top of the list for the most concussions occurred during practices and games. Not only are girls more likely to get injured, but they are also more affected by the injury. According to the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, high school girls can take double the amount of time to recover than boys, with boys taking an average of 11 days to recover, and girls taking 28. One possible explanation for this is that some illnesses that were inflicted before injury, such as depression and migraines, could affect attention and balance, thereby exacerbating, or even contributing to concussions. These illnesses are more common in girls than boys. Additionally, the circumference of girls’ necks are much smaller than boys, making a hit to the neck that could throw the head back much more dangerous.
But why are concussions so prevalent at high schools where the health of the student should be the number one priority? 2 million high school students participate in high impact sports that could cause concussions every year. Furthermore, athletes that have experienced head trauma don’t come forward about their symptoms or aren’t checked after getting injured. In Hawaii, student athletes are required to sign a Concussion Management contract to ensure their safe return to athletics. The form requires students that are injured to complete several steps, such as returning to school and beginning mild sports play, before completely returning to their sport.
The effect of concussions on the body can be hard to deal with. Depending on how severe the head trauma is, symptoms can range anywhere from amnesia and headaches to fatigue and nausea. Sophomore Leilani Peterson recently got a concussion at a soccer tournament in Kona. “It affected my concentration a lot. I get lost and confused easier and (I am) very forgetful. It slowed down my reaction time and speed, and my brain processing,” she said.
While concussion rates are on the rise, they may be harder to prevent, especially with the increasing numbers of high school athletes participating in high contact sports. This is why it is so important for athletes that get concussions to properly and completely heal before returning to the game and to follow a concussion protocol to decrease their risk of injuring themselves further.
It is Kaiser policy that when a student is diagnosed with concussion, they are taken out of their respective sport and all of their teachers are immediately notified. Though this may seem like an excessive precaution, these rules are in place to prevent the worst-case scenario when it comes to concussions. “If it’s bad enough, it can keep you out of sports for pretty long, but also it affects your long term health and more than one can cause permanent damage that can affect you for the rest of your life,” said Peterson.