A concussion backlash? What’s a parent to do?

Has America gone too far in protecting its children from the concussions of youth sports such as football, hockey, and soccer?

Some doctors apparently think so.

CBS News today reports that doctors are now “sounding the alarm” that an “unjustified” concern about concussions is keeping kids from physical activity.

In four years, one sports coach said, his team went from having a waiting list to being barely able to field a team.

“There’s really no good evidence to suggest that a child, after a single concussion, is at any significant risk for long term effects,” NYU Langone Medical Center’s Director of Neurophysiology Neuropsychology Dr. William Barr said.

In fact, doctors say the risk to kids from inactivity is greater than the danger of harm from concussions.

“If somebody says ‘I like playing soccer, but my mother and father are worried that I am going to get a concussion so therefore I’m going to chose not to play soccer,’ — that is a tragedy,” Dr. Marc Difazio, child neurologist at the Children’s National Medical Center said.

He and other doctors are emphasizing there’s no definitive evidence that a concussion causes long-term damage. And there’s no scientific evidence supporting some current recommendations for treating concussions — such as extended periods of rest, often for weeks.

The report also claims that keeping kids with concussions out of games for an extended period of time could make things worse.

Add all of this to the conflicting information about what a parent should do.

Just this week, Leslie Stevens, a doctor, penned an op-ed on Gannett prescribing just the opposite approach.

Most people with a concussion recover quickly and fully, but recovery can be slower among children and teens. And young athletes who’ve had one concussion are at risk of another, with an even longer recovery time. Concussions are particularly associated with football, but they affect athletes in many sports. According to a paper in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, football is the high school sport with the most concussions — but girls’ soccer ranks second.

So it’s important that parents get involved in helping their young athletes stay safe. If your children play sports, you may have witnessed the “tough it out” culture: kids who are reluctant to admit their symptoms or coaches and parents who don’t want to pull their best player or see their son come out of the game. But you can champion a better approach: “When in doubt, sit it out.”

Related: Focus on concussions transforms high school football in Minnesota (Minnesota Public Radio News).

  • Robert Moffitt

    That controversy from the Gophers vs. Michigan game comes to mind.
    Even at a top college, on a game shown on national tv, mistakes still are being made regarding concussions..

  • Gary F

    A. Was knocked out cold 34 years ago playing football on a Thursday and went back to practice on Tuesday. That’s how it was handled back then. I have no idea how many more minor ones I had playing football including one year of junior college football.

    B. Right hand side of the bell curve for booze and pot use in first half of my twenties

    C. Now that I’ve turned 50, every brain fart moment makes me think I’ve got dementia.

    D. Just had my son play his last high school football game last year. Lots of kids having to spend a week or two off because of concussions. Kid says that lots of kids try to hide it so they don’t get benched because of concussions.

    E. Life does come with risks. We do need more “toughing it out” moments for children. We are coddling our kids too much, but then, I’m from a different generation. Football teaches many life skills.

    F. Problem is, you don’t realize the effects for years.