On the Field and Off

The start of school brings many new, exciting, and sometimes stressful changes for kids, including getting up early, daily homework, reconnecting with friends, and beginning fall sports. For those who play contact or collision sports, like football and soccer, this can be a time of great excitement and anxiety for parents as well. The concussion craze has hit full swing in NYC with new laws mandating concussion education for parents, student-athletes, and coaches, and other types of safeguards in place or in the pipeline. For those parents of student-athletes who want to do all they can to ensure their kids stay safe playing the games they love, keep in mind these three points:

First, understand the risks and the myths about concussions. Most kids who sustain a single, uncomplicated concussion get better within a few days with rest and do not experience any long-term problems from it. While it’s important to take these injuries seriously and consult with a healthcare professional if they do occur, it is also very important that kids maintain as much normalcy and routine in their daily lives as possible.  Sidelining them from school or sports longer than necessary can present its own risks.

Second, it’s your right as a parent to know what your child’s team’s concussion policy is. All public schools should have mandated rules in place based on the state law, but private schools and club teams or leagues usually create their own policies.  The important pieces it should cover are that kids be removed from play if suspected of having a concussion and require clearance from a licensed health care professional before returning to sports. The team should also have an athletic trainer who closely monitors their return to full contact practices and games even after they are cleared by a doctor. Finally, the athletes, their parents, and team coaches should receive education to recognize signs and symptoms of concussions.

Third, know when it is necessary to seek care from a concussion specialist.  Your son or daughter may require specialty care if they have symptoms lasting longer than one to two weeks with limited to no improvement or if symptoms are so debilitating that they have trouble making it through a typical day. They should also see a specialist if they have a history of prior concussions, headaches, attention or learning challenges, or anxiety or mood difficulties, as these conditions may worsen following an injury.

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Michael Rosenthal, PhD, is a pediatric neuropsychologist with expertise in the evaluation and treatment of children and adolescents. He is specialized in diagnostic, developmental, and neuropsychological evaluations of children with ADHD, executive dysfunction, learning disabilities, social cognitive weaknesses, and emotional/behavioral challenges. Dr. Rosenthal is also an expert in the identification and management of children when complex questions exist about autism spectrum disorders and concussion or mild traumatic brain injury. Dr. Rosenthal comes to the Child Mind Institute after completing an advanced two-year pediatric neuropsychology post-doctoral fellowship at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Dr. Rosenthal earned his PhD in clinical psychology from University of Connecticut and fulfilled his internship training at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He is a member of the American Psychological Association, New York Neuropsychology Group, and the National Academy of Neuropsychology.

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