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Concussions

Concussions & Young Athletes

Daily Dose

Too Much Pressure to Play Sports?

1:30 to read

Does your child play a sport “after school”?  It seems children as young as 3-4 years of age are now involved in soccer and even football.  Some children are barely walking before they are signed up for a team.  Parents tell me various reasons for this including, “if they don’t start young they will be at a disadvantage athletically”, “if we don’t get on a team now, there will not be room for our child once they start kindergarten or first grade”,  and “our child wants to play and wear a uniform”. I just see lots of issues with burn out.

It seems awfully early to start “team sports” to me. I am a huge advocate of families and children playing together and learning all sorts of games and sporting skills. Kicking a soccer ball in the yard, or hitting the wiffle ball off of the tee, or having Dad throw a pass with the football all seems pretty “normal” to me. But organized sports with a 3 year old who is still in diapers….really?  Maybe one of the “guidelines” should be you have to be potty trained.  Yes, this is true, I see children in diapers who “will not pee or poop in the potty” according to their parents, but they go to soccer practice?  What is wrong with this picture?

So, while some of these well intentioned parents have told me that they are having fun being the coach, or attending games with other friends, their pre-school children “don’t have time to be potty trained”. They are too busy going to school, followed by organized activities that “it is just easier to let them stay in diapers”. I was even with a 4 year old at a football game and she was still in diapers?

At some point these children and parents will need to skip a practice or two and stay home long enough to get potty trained.  I am noticing that children are getting older and older before they are potty trained. I know there are books written on this topic with the philosophy that “the child will ultimately train themselves”, or “ how to potty train in 3 days, with a child who shows no interest”…or something along those lines.  But really, in my experience, if you watch your child’s cues, spend the time to “talk bathroom habits” and have the “time” to be home to potty train most children are potty trained between 24-36 months of age.  Yes, there are occasional children (none of my own) that just show interest earlier and say things like “I go potty now” and really do it on their own. There are also some who are more difficult to get interested and may be harder to potty train…but again, which is probably a more important life time skill…..getting out of a diaper or trying to figure out how to line up for a soccer game? I’m just saying.

Daily Dose

Over-scheduling Your Kids

1:30 to read

Are your kids busy with activites this weekend?  Is your child going to be over or under scheduled?  It is sometimes difficult to find a happy medium.

 

I am still a big believer in the “one sport” per season rule and one other activity..maybe two if the third activity does not require a weekend game or practice.  So, what does this look like for a child in elementary school….soccer, fall baseball or football for the fall season, as well as girl scouts, boy scouts, debate team, chess team, and then maybe piano or flute lessons?  You can change that up in anyway and substitute dance, gymnastics, volleyball, a foreign language class…but you get the picture. In this way your child should have several days a week with “NOTHING” to do after school…except go outside and play!  This gives the parent or caregiver a break as well from driving all around to transport to the venue for the practice or game.

 

I hear so many complaints from parents who are in a constant state of stress from trying to figure out transportation for their child to the soccer practice that conflicts with the football practice and the lacrosse practice. This also requires trying to  juggle the multiple games on the weekend that go on for hours one after the next, and even on Sunday mornings.  When I hear the parents complain about this ridiculous schedule I am also seeing the children who are over tired, burnt out and may even have stomach aches and headaches due to the stress of being over scheduled.

 

While every parent is well intended and wanting their child to have as many opportunities as possible in both athletic and other extracurricular activities, a parent also needs to sometimes say “no”.  Discussing the logistics as well as the time commitment for each activity, in an age appropriate manner, may help a family decide which activity stays and which one is “punted”.

 

So….sit down before you and your child are overwhelmed and pick the activities that you will do this fall…but leave some room for being bored. Boredom is a noun that we need to hear more often.

 

Daily Dose

Athletes & Injuries

1.30 to read

I see a lot of athletic teens, and while many of them participate in several sports more and more tweens and teens are “specializing” in one sport. In other words, they may only play soccer or basketball, or be a gymnast or a dancer.  In some cases they practice or compete almost 365 days a year. (I think they often are only off on the 6 holidays/year that our office is closed!).  They too work really hard.

I have recently had more than a handful of elite athletes, especially girls who are gymnasts, cheerleaders and dancers, who have come to me complaining of back pain.  In most cases lower back pain is musculoskeletal in nature and will resolve with some anti-inflammatories (like ibuprofen), alternating ice and heat to the back and a few days of rest. But in some cases the back pain worsens, especially with activity and further work up is required.

In several cases the ongoing back pain is due to a spondylolysis, which is a fracture of the pars interarticularis of the vertebrae. It is akin to a stress fracture in other areas.  It is most commonly found in the pediatric population and is thought to be due to mechanical stress of the trunk with repetitive flexion, hyperextension and trunk rotation.  All of those maneuvers are the “usual” for a cheerleader doing back flips or a gymnast doing exercises with hyperextension.  Athletes who are into weight lifting (seems they all do this now) and even children who carry heavy backpacks may be at risk for a “spondy”.

The spondylolysis may show up on a plain X-ray of the back or may require a CT scan to see the fracture.  

In our community there is some difference of opinion on how best to treat the condition.  Unfortunately, it seems that the best treatment is rest which may be for weeks-months.  This is NOT what they competitive gymnast or star football player wants to hear.  

Once the pain has resolved a structured physical therapy program seems to be of benefit as well.  If conservative management for over a year does not help some orthopedists would recommend surgery. Again, there are several different views as to the benefits of surgery in this age group.

But if your child has persistent lower back pain that worsens with activity and hyperextension you should think about this condition and talk to your doctor. It is becoming more prevalent as our kids compete at higher and higher levels.  

Daily Dose

Parents Need To Take Concussions Seriously

Dr. Sue explains why parents need to take concussion seriously. They are a brain injury.I have blogged previously about the latest recommendations concerning concussions and restrictions on activity after sustaining a  concussion. This subject has been in the news a great deal lately, not only within the medical community, but also within the NFL and other major sports groups.

There is more and more data to show that concussions in and of themselves are dangerous, but that repetitive concussions may cause even greater damage to the brain, especially to the still developing brain of young athletes. I just saw an eleven year old boy who is a soccer play, actually, he is the goalie. He was at school, just playing around in the gym, when he sustained a concussion after running into another child head on and falling backwards.  The boy remembered falling, but shortly thereafter he became disoriented, could not take a test due to the fact that his memory was impaired, and subsequently vomited. His concerned parents brought him to my office to be evaluated.  By the time I saw him he was feeling better, and he had a normal neurological exam. Based upon the history of his injury he was diagnosed with a concussion.  Because of this he and his parents were advised that he not participate in sports for a minimum of a week.  Of course, as it would turn out,  his school soccer team was supposed to be in the State championship game in 48 hours.  Their team was 92 -0.  After much discussion and a conversation with his coach the parents we all agreed that he would not play. The following day, I received an email from his father who felt that his son was doing well and was “back to normal”.   He had been re-thinking the issue of his son not playing and wanted me to reconsider my instructions for his son not to play. He even noted that he himself had played college soccer and had often played after suffering a concussion.  He felt that if his son played (if he was absolutely needed to secure a win) and did not do “headers” that he would be okay. What was he thinking?  I don’t really think he was thinking about anything other than his son’s team winning a State championship. He seemed to have tunnel vision, and could not see that there would be many more soccer games in his son’s future, but another concussion could cause long term problems for his son.  So, I stood by my recommendation, for which his mother “thanked me”.  His team played the game and of course they lost. I felt terribly for their loss, but at the same time, knew that medically this was the appropriate decision. So many times, we as parents get so “wrapped up” in our children’s lives, whether it be in sports, academics or even having the “best” birthday party, that we lose sight of the “big picture”.  I see the” big picture” as trying to make the best decisions for our children, given the best information that we have to help make that decision. Many of those decisions may not be easy, but we as parents know they are right.  Whether that is keeping your child from playing a soccer game after suffering a concussion, or taking away a teen’s cell phone and computer privileges after they have been drinking under age.  There are so many of these difficult decisions and we all hope to make them correctly. This patients family did, and I am proud of them! That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow! Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Concussion Update

1.30

Football has started and cheerleaders are back flipping and flopping and unfortunately that means concussion “season” is beginning as well.  Concussions are also seen during soccer which has geared up for select teams, fall lacrosse, and many other contact sports.  

There is more and more data being published about concussions in children and adolescents, and most of the studies are showing that concussions are serious brain injuries and therefore needed to be treated appropriately.

A new study out of Boston Children’s Hospital showed that children and teens take longer to recover from a concussion if they have had one before.  For the study, a concussion was defined to include any altered mental status within 4 hours of the injury, and headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and or balance problems, fatigue,drowsiness, blurred vision, memory difficulty or trouble concentrating.  The most common symptoms noted were headache, fatigue, and dizziness. Of note, 20% of the kids in the study had neuroimaging, and all were negative. 

While 5-7 years ago it was previously thought that kids recovered from a concussion within a week, we now know that recovery time for preteens and teens is longer than previously expected.   Other risk factors for a prolonged recovery were being 13 years of age or older, not losing consciousness, and having a higher “post concussion symptom questionnaire score (RPSQ).  

So, what does this all mean? It means both doctors and parents need to be very conservative in making sure that any athlete who has sustained a concussion has both physical and cognitive rest.  In the study only 92% of people who had sustained a concussion were told to refrain from athletics. That number needs to be 100%.

There will be more and more studies on the way looking at whether there is a gap between when kids “feel better” and when they are truly physiologically recovered. Once again, this study verifies that a recurrent concussion is even more serious.

If ever in doubt that your child might have sustained what used to be called a “mild concussion”, be conservative and keep them out of play. That is never the wrong call.

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