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Recognizing and preventing concussions

Babylon's Eric Schweitzer runs the ball during a

Babylon's Eric Schweitzer runs the ball during a game against Mt. Sinai. (Sept. 29, 2012) Credit: Steve Pfost

When the kids went back to school in September, they also returned to the fields, tracks and courts, and many may have already had a concussion.

“Play is the work of childhood,” said Michael G. Vitale, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at New York Presbyterian Children’s Hospital. From organized sports to unorganized play, such as bike riding and playing on swing sets, children are more prone to head injuries than adults, he explained, yet their concussion symptoms are likely to be overlooked by parents, coaches and teachers. “Any change in mental status, how the child is thinking or behaving after any hit is likely a concussion,” Vitale said.

Things to look out for include: any change in your child’s behavior, lasting headache, dizziness, tingling, loss of appetitive, fatigue, sensitivity to light, nausea, seeing stars, memory loss, not sleeping well, confusion and very subtle changes in concentration and mood.

The good news is that if the child completely recovers, they have no higher risk of injury or lasting damage. But if a child returns to play during the vulnerable period, they are likely to get another concussion. And a child whose concussion is not diagnosed is 10 times more likely to suffer another injury.

If you think your child has a concussion, you should call your pediatrician or go to an emergency room if the child needs immediate attention.

While it’s hard to prevent certain injuries, making sure your child is wearing the necessary protective gear is imperative. Awareness and prevention are also very important Vitale said. “Talk to your children,” he said. Explain to them the symptoms of a concussion. Tell them to alert an adult as soon as they are not feeling well. Let them know that it’s OK to come out of a game if they think they are injured. Playing through an injury can lead to more damage.

Alexandra’s Playground,, named for Vitale's daughter, who died in an accident at a sailing school in 2008, helps parents to ensure their children have opportunities for safe, active play throughout childhood.

Photo: Babylon's Eric Schweitzer runs the ball during a game against Mt. Sinai. (Sept. 29, 2012)

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