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Youth Sports Concussions
Minnesota's New Law and Helpful Resources
Nearly three-fourths of U.S. households have at least one child who plays organized sports. Unfortunately, about 3.5 million children receive medical treatment for a sports-related injury each year, and as many as half of these injuries are preventable according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The rate and severity of sports related injuries increases with a child's age. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), children ages 5 - 14 years of age account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments with collision and contact sports associated with higher rates of injury. In fact, the CPSC reported in 2009 an estimated 216,232 children age 14 and under were injured playing football, 88,789 were injured in soccer. For children 14 years and younger playing baseball or softball, there were 115,133 injuries in 2009. The most common types of sport-related injuries in children are sprains, muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries, and heat-related illness. Although very rare, brain injury is the leading cause of sports-related death to children.

In May of 2011 Minnesota passed a youth sports concussion-related law (SF 612). Effective September 1, it requires organizations that organize and charge a fee for youth athletic activities to provide information about concussions to coaches, officials, youth athletes and parents. The law also requires all coaches and officials to receive annual concussion training and requires youth athletes and their parents/guardians to sign a concussion information form before participating in the athletic activity. In addition, the law states that an athlete who appears to have sustained a concussion is to be immediately removed from play or practice and can return to play once a trained provider evaluates the athlete and provides written permission to return to the activity. Ways to take a proactive role in keeping young athletes safe before, during and after playing sports:

Pre-participation physical evaluations. Safe Kids USA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend every child receive an annual pre-participation evaluation (PPE), which will help determine his/her readiness to play sports and may uncover any underlying conditions that could limit participation or increase the risk for injury or a medical emergency. Parents should talk to their child's doctor and ask them to perform the full pre-participation evaluation, which was recently updated by the AAP.

Dehydration/health-related illness. Young athletes need to be encouraged to drink water before, during and after practice, in order to prevent dehydration and the risk of a more serious heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Athletes should start practice/play fully hydrated, and drink water for every 20 minutes of play.

Overuse injuries. An overuse injury is difficult to diagnose and treat because they are usually subtle and occur over time. Fatigue, burnout or playing while injured can lead to overuse injuries such as repetitive motion injuries as well as acute injuries including sprains (mostly ankle), muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries. Warming up and stretching before play is essential to preventing sports related injuries. This helps athletes avoid injuries such as muscle tears or sprains by stretching and releasing any muscle tension.

Concussion. Children who do not wear or use protective equipment are at greater risk of sustaining sports-related injuries. Parents can reduce their child's risk of minor or serious injuries such as concussions by making sure their child wears the appropriate and properly fitted sports equipment during practice and competitive play and knowing the signs and symptoms of a concussion.

Source: Safe Kids USA

Visit the Safe Sports page on the Minnesota Safety Council website for additional information and resources to help keep young athletes healthy, safe and in the game.