Healthy Living: Preventing brain injury in organized sports

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More kids are back to playing organized sports now that restrictions are starting to ease, and with that inevitable means sports injuries.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Every 9 seconds, someone experiences a traumatic brain injury in the United States.

Dr. Drew Oliveira is the executive medical director for Regence and he says it is one of the leading causes of disability in kids, teens and young adults, "About 2.8 million people a year sustain a brain injury and about 560,000 of those are children."

Dr. Oliveira says organized sports are responsible for 45% of brain injuries, "Football, bicycle riding, basketball, other playground activities and soccer are the highest number of reasons a child is seen in the emergency room."

Because Dr. Oliveira says concussions are fairly common, there are some things parents should watch for.

"They’re knocked out, they’re unconscious but they may also exhibit difficulties with speech or changes in their vision."

Dr. Oliveira says they may also have headaches. Maybe as a parent, you notice some cognitive impairments, like your child is having trouble thinking or with short-term memory.

Now, aside from the obvious signs, Dr. Oliveira says there may be symptoms associated with emotional impairments, "Big mood swings, anxiety, that are unusual for that individual. Watch for signs or symptoms that occur immediately but can also occur hours or even a couple afterward."

So you now know what to look for, how can you make sure you are protecting your kids while they are out on the field?

Dr. Oliveira says equipment is key, "If you are playing football - a good, well-fitting helmet, if you are snow skiing - a helmet, bicycle riding - wear a helmet that fits."

While helmets are not foolproof, Dr. Oliveira says they do help decrease impact and injury. And don't let the idea of injuries deter you from allowing your kids to play, "Get the kids out there, we want them to play, put them in organized sports and just wear the right equipment for the sport they are playing."

Dr. Oliveira says if you are worried about brain injury in really young kids, he says look at your environment at home and make sure things are safe for them. He says he tells patients to get rid of the coffee tables and other things with points to them. So, kind of a way to kid-proof your home to avoid brain injury.

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