New research on how young athletes should be treated for concussions on and off the field is welcome news for both parents and coaches.
But a Seattle doctor who was on the international research panel that created the 2017 Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sports hopes parents won’t use this information as a reason why their children shouldn’t be playing sports.
Dr. Stanley Herring, director of the University of Washington Sports Health and Safety Institute, says exercise is essential to a child’s long-term health. The concussion protocols published last month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine are designed to keep athletes as safe as possible and all youth sports programs should adopt them. But parents also need to keep their kids active.
Physical illness related to inactivity is more likely to result in premature death than sports-related concussions. About 10 percent of deaths worldwide are related to physical inactivity, including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, according to Harvard researchers. Physical activity also combats depression and enhances psychological well-being and may improve academic performance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 60 million children, ages 6 to 18, participate in organized sports worldwide, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Between 2004 and 2009, there were 24 sport-related deaths in high school athletes, some of which were related to traumatic brain injuries.
The new concussion protocol is designed to improve sports safety and make sure those athletes who do get injured are able to recover completely.
Only about a quarter of high school students get a daily dose of exercise, according to the CDC. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends youth, aged 6 to 17, get an hour of physical activity each day. But as most parents can attest, many young people today are getting a lot more screen time than exercise time.
Of course, many adults could use more exercise as well. As the sun starts making more of an appearance this spring, parents should encourage children to participate in sports and other outdoor activities and not just sit on the sidelines while the children play.
The importance of safety in sports should never be discounted, especially for young people. But it’s also important to balance the risk of playing sports with the lifelong benefit of exercise.