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Researchers believe young athletes may be more vulnerable than adults to lasting damage from these head injuries because their brains are still developing. Several states have adopted or are considering tougher limits on when athletes can resume play after a concussion, as have some schools, amateur leagues and the NFL.
Dr. Michael Koester, chairman of a sports medicine committee at the National Federation of State High School Associations, said young athletes increasingly are playing and practicing year-round to stay competitive, a trend that increases chances for injury.
Evan Nolte, 16, a top high school basketball player in Atlanta, says the injuries "are more serious than people think."
Evan hit his head hard on the floor during a tournament earlier this year when he dived for a ball and another player landed on top of him. He didn't think he had a concussion, and only sat out several minutes before returning to the game.
A few days later, he was elbowed in the head in another game. Evan sat out the rest of the game, feeling disoriented. His doctor diagnosed a concussion the next day and told him to avoid sports for a few weeks. When Evan had trouble focusing in class, and complained that his head was spinning, his parents took him to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's concussion clinic.
The clinic is among an increasing number of centers nationwide that use computerized or written tests to measure mental function after concussions. Evan's results showed some deficits. His scores improved after several days, but it took him about a month to feel 100 percent.
Now he's back to training. At 6-feet-7, Evan plays competitively 10 months of the year and plans to play in college. Coaches from top schools have already shown interest.
American Academy of Pediatrics:
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