Keeping young athletes safe from head injuries - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Keeping young athletes safe from head injuries

Players need to do a better job communicating news of their injuries. Players need to do a better job communicating news of their injuries.

The nation was shocked when successful NFL player Junior Seau committed suicide last May.  National Institutes of Health announced last week that he had a degenerative brain disease when he took his own life.  His chronic brain damage has raised questions for many parents about the risks associated with contact sports.

What if your child wants to play football, soccer, or join the cheerleading team?

In light of the Junior Seau news, the threat of head injury has become a serious topic of discussion.

"It does have me concerned about the dangers of some of these sports," says Angela Attinger, a mother of three.

Attinger has active 11, 9 and 5 year old children. At this moment, she doesn't think she'd allow her son to play football.

"Unless it was a complete passion of his, like 'I have to play football mom', then I would try to support him and all that he does, but if its not a passion, we don't have to do it," says Attinger.

"We don't want people to become so scared that we avoid the wonderful benefits of sports and exercise because we want kids to participate," says Dr. Paul Stricker, a pediatric sports medicine specialist.

Dr. Stricker says it boils down to an awareness of the cumulative effect of head injuries. Players need to do a better job communicating news of their injuries.

"It used to be kids would never tell anyone about it because they want to keep playing," says Dr. Stricker. "Hopefully now, they realize they need to tell somebody."

Dr. Stricker sees that as a hidden benefit to an otherwise tragic story.

"I think coaches are going to be more apt to say, 'hey, this kid is not looking right, lets pull him out,' or a child is going to be more apt to tell their coach or their parent they've had a problem," says Dr. Stricker.

To help recognize a concussion, the CDC suggests you should watch for two things among your young athletes.  Watch for a forceful bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body that results in rapid movement of the head and any change in the athlete's behavior, thinking, or physical functioning.  They should stay on the sidelines until they can see a doctor.

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