Risk of concussion increases with back-to-school sports

17362246(BPT) - When the school season begins, more students will be riding bikes and participating in sports such as football, hockey and soccer. Events such as a bike accident, quick fall or collision with another student during athletic practice resulting in a concussion could cause serious consequences both during the school year and later on in life.

Often a person who has a concussion is not aware of having one; concussions can occur even if the person doesn't lose consciousness. If the individual is on a sports team and returns to play too soon after suffering a concussion, the injury can lead to ongoing health problems.

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the world's trusted authority on sports concussion, is encouraging athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, parents and school staff to pay attention to the signs of concussion as students head back to school and onto the sporting fields. The AAN recently updated its guidelines on evaluating and managing concussion at www.aan.com/concussion, and also created a free downloadable Concussion Quick Check mobile app as a useful tool for parents, coaches/trainers and players.

"One of our goals is to raise awareness about sports concussion in school-age children. Parents, coaches and trainers need to take any head injury seriously," says Dr. Christopher Giza, co-author of the AAN guidelines and member of the AAN. "Students often will claim to be fine following a head injury so they can return to the game more quickly or avoid embarrassment. Being evaluated by a licensed health care professional trained in diagnosing and managing concussions before returning to play is of the utmost importance to help prevent youths from suffering additional health problems."

Anyone working with children (as well as adult athletes) can use the free Concussion Quick Check mobile app to help determine:

* When a more thorough medical evaluation is needed

* Common signs and symptoms of a concussion, which include:

- Headache and sensitivity to light or sound
 - Changes to balance, coordination and reaction time
 - Changes in memory, judgment, speech and sleep
 - Loss of consciousness or a "blackout" (this happens in less than 10 percent of cases)

* Things the student or athlete may tell you that are red flags

* What actions to take if the student receives a head injury - either during a game or while on the school grounds

* When an athlete should return to play

The mobile app also provides help in finding a nearby neurologist using the smartphone's GPS capability, as well as information about state laws regarding concussions.

Children should be encouraged to wear helmets whenever riding bikes or scooters, or using skateboards.

Anyone connected with a school setting should be aware of the dangers of concussion, because a head injury can occur anywhere, not just on the sporting field or in gym class.