The American Medical Association has adopted a policy that calls for dealing with suspected concussions in youth sports. The policy would require that all young athletes be required to have a physician's written approval before they can return to playing or practicing if they are suspected of having a concussion.
The AMA is the largest doctor's organization in the United States and its policies are influential. This policy change is part of the increasing attention being paid to the dangers of concussion in all sports, both youth and adult.
"Concussions account for nearly 10% of all high school athletic injuries," AMA Board Member Edward Langston, M.D., said in a statement. "Even mild brain injuries can be catastrophic or fatal. To protect the health and well-being of young athletes, it's vital a physician evaluate them and give them a clean bill of health before they return to play."
A concussion is caused by a blow to the head and is a type of traumatic brain injury. It can occur with or without loss of consciousness. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and problems with concentration, memory, balance, or vision. Repeated concussions have been linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a type of brain damage.
Concussions were once shrugged off and athletes of all ages were expected to get back into the game quickly. A study of high school athletes with concussions found that nearly 16% of football players who sustained a concussion that resulted in a loss of consciousness returned to play in less than one day.
"It is essential that athletes know how crucial it is to notify their coach, trainer, physician or parent if they've sustained any type of head injury because even mild cases of traumatic brain injury may have serious and prolonged consequences," said AMA Board Member Jack Resneck Jr., M.D., in a statement.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1.6 million and 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions and other head injuries, occur in the U.S. every year. Girls' sports are not exempt. Almost 60% of girls playing middle school soccer reported playing with symptoms of a concussion, according to a recent study.