Health Team

H.S. Players Remain on Field Despite Initial Concussion

Posted August 23, 2007 3:48 p.m. EDT
Updated August 23, 2007 6:47 p.m. EDT

— While heat is a concern during the opening days of high school football practice, another worry lasts throughout the season – the effect of player concussions.

In many high school games across the country, a football player will sustains a concussion, but continue to play in the game. The next week, he will suffer another blow to the head.

"When that happens on top of one that's not fully cleared, they lose their auto-regulation of the brain. They have cell death," said Dr. James Kelly, an emergency physician at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

Researchers said second-impact syndrome can lead to brain bleeding or it can be fatal. New research finds severe brain injury – though rare – is much more likely to occur in high school football players than in college.

Kelly said he thinks it is because more initial concussions are not recognized. He said youths play when they should not and suffer devastating second hits.

"Heads Up," a campaign from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and doctors' groups, provide guidance for coaches, trainers and parents. Kevin Rask, a certified athletic trainer, said he talks with parents about concussions before the season starts.

"We explain what we do when we suspect a concussion. We explain to parents symptoms they need to look for," Rask said.

The symptoms might appear immediately or later and include headaches, nausea, dizziness, clumsiness and problems with memory or concentration. Any of those symptoms means the athlete should stay off the field until cleared by a health care professional.

"It's better for the athlete to miss one game than miss the entire season," Kelly said.

The research appears in the July issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.