Sport-related concussions are a concern for all athletes, especially kids. Research has suggested that a young athlete who suffers a concussion could have more symptoms and longer recoveries than older athletes. It is crucial that parents understand the signs and symptomsYoung football player helmet in order to properly identify kids with traumatic brain injuries. Plus a better understanding of treatment and return to sports by parents could help protect children.

How well do parents truly understand concussions? At the 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference, Kirstin D. Weerdenburg MD, FAAP and others presented a study looking into that question. They surveyed 511 parents of young athletes between the ages of 5 and 18 who took their children to emergency departments for evaluation of a head injury.

Knowledge of concussion guidelines

They found that roughly half of the parents recognized that concussions cause symptoms such as headaches. 92% realized that they should keep their concussed child out of sports and take the child to see a doctor. Only 26% realized that guidelines for return to sports and return to school existed.

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In a press release by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Weerdenburg pointed out the need for improvement. “Our study showed that the vast majority of parents knew what to do if they suspected a concussion in their child and in most cases understood the clinical importance of this injury as a brain injury. The study also highlights that a physician visit shortly after the injury is important to confirm the diagnosis for parents and to inform parents of return to play/learn guidelines to ensure a proper recovery and prevent a second concussion while the brain is still healing,” Dr. Weerdenburg noted.

Attitudes about concussions

Researchers in Los Angeles recently published a study in the journal Sports Health looking at the knowledge and attitudes of parents toward sport-related concussions. They surveyed 214 parents who brought their children for evaluation of musculoskeletal or head injuries to a Head injury in soccerpediatric hospital or one of the satellite clinics.

They found that parents with lower incomes and education levels tended to have the lowest levels of knowledge about concussions. Interestingly, parents who played sports or parents who had suffered a concussion themselves while playing sports did not have higher scores on the Concussion Knowledge Index or Concussion Attitude Index.

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It seems that in recent years parents are becoming more aware of concussions and their dangers. Perhaps the media attention given to professional athletes who suffer traumatic brain injuries has played a role in that awareness. It is clear from these studies that we have a long way to go in order to help parents recognize the signs and symptoms of concussions and the importance of evaluation of the injury by a physician.

The question then becomes an important one. How can we best educate parents about sports-related concussions?

Lin AC, BS, Salzman GA, BA, Bachman SL, BS, Burke RV, Zaslow T, MD, Piasek CZ, Edison BR, Hamilton A, MD, Upperman JS. Assessment of Parental Knowledge and Attitudes Toward Pediatric Sports-Related Concussions. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Published online ahead of print February 6, 2015.

Weerdenburg KD, Schneeweiss S, Koo E, Boutis K. Parental Knowledge of Concussion. Presented at the 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in San Diego, California. October 10, 2014.