Concussions can result in memory loss and problems
with concentration and reaction time. The effects are worse when an
athlete suffers a second concussion before fully recovering from the
U.S. high school soccer players get about 50,000 concussions each
year, but no one's been keeping track of concussions among younger
girls, researchers said.
They found 13 percent of those athletes suffered a concussion each
season, and more than half kept playing after the injury.
"We were surprised at the number of girls reporting symptoms but
more surprised at the number that played despite symptoms and never
saw a health professional for their symptoms," Dr. John O'Kane told
Reuters Health in an email.
O'Kane led the study at the University of Washington's Department of
Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Seattle.
"Kids should understand that these symptoms could indicate a
potentially serious injury and that they must stop play when they
occur and notify their parents," he said.
O'Kane and his colleagues studied 351 girls ages 11 to 14 from 33
soccer teams in the Puget Sound area of Washington. They followed
each team for at least one season over a total of four years.
The researchers sent weekly emails to parents asking if the girls
had suffered any hits to the head that resulted in symptoms usually
associated with concussions. Those include memory loss, difficulty
concentrating, confusion, dizziness, headaches, ringing in the ears
and sensitivity to light or sound.
If they responded with a yes, players were contacted by members of
the study team and asked more detailed questions, including if they
had been to the doctor and whether they continued to play with
There were 59 concussions during the study, including eight repeat
concussions. Most occurred during games either as a result of
hitting another player or when heading the ball.
The rate of 1.3 concussions for every 1,000 hours of practice or
game time was higher than what has been reported in studies of
female soccer players at the high school and college levels.
Symptoms lasted an average of nine days, and less than half of
concussed girls sought medical attention. More than 58 percent
continued to play with their symptoms, the researchers reported in
O'Kane said parents of athletes in any contact or collision sport
should be aware of the symptoms of concussion and share that
knowledge with their kids. He said it's the parent's responsibility
to ensure that kids with concussion symptoms are appropriately
evaluated before returning to play.
[to top of second column]
"If you've had a concussion, and then you get a second while you
still haven't recovered from the first, your symptoms are much worse
and they last for much longer," Dr. Amanda Weiss-Kelly told Reuters
Weiss-Kelly is division chief of pediatric sports medicine at
University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital of Case
Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She wasn't involved
in the new study.
"We have realized there's more going on with concussions than what
we previously thought," she said.
Weiss-Kelly explained that subtle but serious symptoms might
continue for up to two weeks after the initial injury. Memory loss
and problems with concentration may affect kids and how well they
perform in school.
Many concussions happened while the players were heading the ball — possibly because they hadn't progressed far enough to be able to
perform the maneuver safely.
"It certainly begs the question, ‘Should we put off heading the ball
especially in game situations until we think kids are older and more
coordinated and more capable of doing it in an appropriate
fashion?'" Weiss-Kelly said.
She was concerned the general public may start to feel inundated
with concussion education at this point.
"A lot of people think we're swinging too far on the caution side
and I would argue that with kids that's impossible. You can't be too
careful with kids' brains," she said.
"The fact that so few of these kids sought medical attention proves
we haven't done enough."
Pediatrics, online Jan. 20, 2014.
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.