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Penn State St. Joseph Raising Awareness about Concussions Prior to Start of Fall Sports

Penn State St. Joseph’s new concussion program is in place and a center to diagnose and treat concussions will be open on the Bern Township campus in time for the start of fall scholastic sports.

Head injuries resulting from participation in sports have been the focus of recent attention in light of increasing awareness of the dangers of concussion in young people. About 3.8 million concussions occur each year as a result of sports and physical activity, according to the National Athletic Trainer’s Association.

And, athletes who have had one concussion are 1.5 times more likely to suffer a second one, with the risk for concussion increasing with each subsequent injury.

Monica Rush, Director of Rehab Services for Penn State St. Joseph said parents can help student athletes understand the serious nature of concussions and reduce their risk of injury.

The first step, she suggested, is for parents to educate themselves. “All you really need is some basic knowledge,” Rush said. “There’s so much information available now.”

Rush suggests that parents sit down with their children and look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “HEADS UP” site at www.cdc.gov/headsup/index.html.

The site contains information specific to athletes, parents, coaches and others, including a section on helmet safety.

Adhering to a “safe sports culture” can minimize the risk of concussions, Rush said.

In addition to having the proper equipment, athletes should be instructed to practice safe tackle techniques, follow the rules of the game and practice good sportsmanship at all times.

“It’s not just that good sportsmanship should be practiced because it’s the right thing to do, it’s a safety issue,” Rush said.

If a student athlete does incur an injury, parents should encourage the child to report all symptoms. Hiding symptoms in order to remain in the game or return to the sport quickly can lead to another injury, which can be devastating.

“You’re not helping anybody – especially not yourself – by not being honest about symptoms,” Rush said.

A student athlete who suffers a blow to the head should be carefully observed. If a parent suspects a concussion, they should seek medical attention immediately.

While symptoms normally abate in a relatively short time, some concussions result in post-concussion syndrome, a condition in which symptoms last for three months or longer.

Patients who experience that syndrome are at risk for depression, cognitive impairment, behavioral changes, migraines, vision dysfunction and other problems.

And, parents should understand that while football produces the most concussions among high school and college-aged athletes, other sports and activities also put young people at risk, said Downtown Reading Campus physician Dr. Jeffrey Zlotnick.

Girls who play soccer are prone to concussions, as are cheerleaders and participants in other sports.

More than 50 percent of concussions may go unreported, said Zlotnick, who urged parents to use common sense to help prevent concussions and make sure a child who may have suffered a concussion receives medical treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion

Concussions can be difficult to diagnose. If your child has experienced a blow to the head during sports or another activity, look for these possible symptoms.

Signs that you might observe include:

  • Child appears dazed or stunned
  • Is confused about assignment or position
  • Forgets an instruction
  • Is unsure of game, opponent or score
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Displays mood, behavior or personality changes

Symptoms that your child may report:

  • Headache or pressure in head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Confusion
  • Feeling down

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Did your student athlete recently suffer an injury or illness? Penn State Health St. Joseph Sports Medicine Clinic is open Monday afternoons. It's located in the Medical Office Building in Bern Township (attached to Medical Center). Call 610-378-BALL to schedule an appointment.