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The goal is "to keep the brain stimulated but not enough to push it into overdrive," explains Guskiewicz.
Another Pittsburgh study of 234 soccer players found that two weeks after their concussion, female players scored worse on some brain-function tests than similarly injured males. Dr. Alexis Chiang Colvin found size differences didn't explain the discrepancy. She couldn't find an alternate explanation, and while the gender question is explored, urges coaches and athletes to be aware that female players may need a little extra time to recover.
Increasingly, professional and college athletes are given preseason tests of memory and other cognitive skills. After a concussion, retesting can help athletic trainers determine when athletes are ready to return to play.
That's far less common in high school sports. Are young athletes returning too soon? The only national study of high school injuries, run by Ohio State University, is analyzing that question now.
Meanwhile, what's the advice? A government campaign and concussion specialists urge that:
-Parents, players and coaches know the symptoms -- from immediate signs, such as being dazed, amnesia, moving slowly or clumsily, to later symptoms such as dizziness, sleep problems, irritability and concentration problems.
-Athletes don't return to play until cleared by a health professional.
-Appropriate health officials be on site to assess concussion "whether it's Pop Warner football or soccer or high school teams," Guskiewicz says.
Teaching young players the seriousness is the big challenge, says Ohio State injury specialist Dawn Comstock: "It's difficult for them to realize this one game Friday night is not as important as my cognitive ability the rest of my life."
On the Net:
Government concussion info
Lauran Neergaard covers health and medical issues for The Associated Press in Washington.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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