I play high school football and my mom has been freaking out lately that I might end up getting a concussion. I guess she's heard a lot of information lately that football is really dangerous and concussions are a major problem. I really want to play football so I'd like to find a way to calm my mom down. So can you tell me how dangerous playing football actually is in terms of getting a concussion? She also says a person can get one and not even know. Is that true? She's also worried that some coaches might not take a player out of a game right away if they might have one. So I also wanted to know if you really have to take someone out of a game anyways if they seem to be fine? Thanks for any help you can give me.
These are great questions! Let's break them down one at a time.
First, what is a concussion?
A concussion is a mild brain injury that can happen because of direct impact to the head or, less frequently, because of fast rotation of the head when another area of the body is hit. The concussion can produce very mild or more severe symptoms but no injury will be seen on brain imaging including CT scans or MRI.
How dangerous playing football actually is in terms of getting a concussion?
It's estimated that 13-15% of high school sports injuries are concussions. In boys the most common sports leading to concussions are the more contact-driven sports like football, hockey, and lacrosse.
Is it possible to have a concussion and not realize it?
The signs and symptoms of concussion can be obvious or subtle. Most people with concussions report having a headache, but not all. Other symptoms of concussion include dizziness or trouble with balance, difficulty concentrating, confusion, slow speech, vision changes, nausea and/or vomiting, feeling drowsy, memory loss or troble forming new memories, sensitivity to noise or ringing in the ears, irritability, laughing or crying inappropriately, or rarely, loss of consciousness. Because some of the symptoms impact memory, concentration, and the ability to think and process information, players may not be able to recognize these symptoms in themselves.
Do you really have to take someone out of a game anyways if they seem to be fine?
Any player with a potential or suspected concussion should be removed from the field for a thorough medical evaluation. If any symptoms of concussion are present the athlete should not be allowed back in the game because any repeat head trauma could increase the severity of the concussion and delay recovery. Also, symptoms of concussion do not always show up immediately, sometimes not showing up until up to 30 minutes later, so players who have an injury that is highly suspicious for causing concussion should be reevaluated every 30 minutes or so, even if they have no symptoms of concussion on their first evaluation. Players who do have a concussion must complete a supervised Return to Play Protocol, meaning that they cannot resume participation until they are symptom-free at rest and while active.
High school sports are a great way to make friends and stay active, but it is important to recognize the risk of injury. It's tough to sit out of a game or practice, but remember that if you don't take care of minor injuries properly they can get much worse. You should never try to hide symptoms of an injury from your family, coaches, trainer, or physicians.
If you have any other questions or concerns, TeenHealthFX recommends you speak to your doctor about it. And if you are unsure of how to discuss this with your mother, perhaps it would be helpful for you, your mother and your doctor to discuss it together in terms of potential risks.
If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-5199 for an appointment with an adolescent medicine specialist or contact your local teen health center. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network primary care physicians or adolescent medicine specialists.