Chiropractic care by a doctor of chiropractic with an emphasis in sports medicine can provide expertise when it comes to concussion in youth sports
If you are at all interested in sports, either as a fan or as a participant, you likely have an idea of the risk for injury in high-contact sports such as hockey, martial arts or football. Furthermore, if you have a child who plays sports, you are likely even more aware of the potential risk for them to get injured.
But one of the most dangerous types of injuries in youth sports may also be one that coaches and parents may miss entirely at first glance.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that occurs when a hard, blunt-force bump or blow to the head or body occurs, sometimes also resulting in a fast, whipping motion of the head. A concussion can be particularly dangerous because somebody who has been hit may not lose consciousness, and will look fine until they are examined closely.
How common are concussions in youth sports? What are the symptoms? Can chiropractic help treat concussions as a result of sports injuries?
Stats on concussion in youth sports
Although it is difficult to pin down exact numbers, estimates are that more than 45 million children participate in some type of organized sports activity, with about 8 million kids participating through their schools.1
According to a 2017 paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 300,000 children each year will suffer a concussion as a result of participation in a sports activity. Boys are more likely than girls to suffer concussions in high-contact sports such as football. However, girls had a higher concussion rate than boys in comparable sports such as soccer or basketball.1
Signs of a concussion
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the signs and symptoms for a concussion often fall into two categories – those that others can see and those that the injured player will report.2
Observable signs of a concussion can often include:
- inability or difficulty recalling events before or after concussion
- looking dazed, stunned, or clumsy
- responding slowly to questions
- loss of consciousness (even briefly)
- dilated pupils
- mood, behavior, or personality changes over several weeks or months afterward
A person who has received a concussive blow will often report:
- headaches or pressure in head
- nausea or vomiting
- balance problems, dizziness, or double or blurry vision
- being bothered by light or noise
- feeling sluggish, foggy, or groggy
- feeling confused, having difficulty concentrating, or experiencing memory problems
Chiropractic treatment for concussion
The first step in treating a young athlete for a concussion is to perform a proper assessment, using the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) at baseline, during treatment, and then once all symptoms have subsided.
A 2013 article in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine showed the efficacy of SCAT2 in determining the signs of concussion in 15 high school athletes.3 The researchers concluded that the SCAT provided a clear, objective measurement by which to track patient progress until they were asymptomatic.
Another 2013 paper in the same journal conducted a literature review on the topic of chiropractic care for concussion in youth sports, both at events and in a clinical setting.4 In addition, the article provides guidelines for treatment and prevention, including patient education and use of proper protective headgear. Additionally, neurological symptoms, such as mood changes, may linger for several weeks or months following the initial injury, so may require additional followup.4
Chiropractic concussion care “saved the career” of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguin player Sidney Crosby, who has a chiropractor on his personal team. Crosby had suffered a series of concussions and thought his career might be over before treatment by chiropractic care. 5
Organized youth sports can provide a great outlet for physical activity, good sportsmanship, and healthy competition. However, there can be a risk of injury, including concussion. Fortunately, early chiropractic intervention can get a young athlete back into the game as soon as possible.
- Schallmo MS, Weiner JA, Hsu WK. Sport- and gender-specific trends in the epidemiology of concussions suffered by high school athletes. Paper presented at American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons AAOS 2017 Annual Meeting; March 14-18; San Diego.
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Concussion Signs and Symptoms. https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_symptoms.html. Updated February 2019. Accessed Sept. 11, 2019.
- Shane ER, Pierce KM, Gonzalez JK, Campbell NJ. Sports chiropractic management of concussions using the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2 symptom scoring, serial examinations, and graded return to play protocol: A retrospective case series. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. 2013;12(4):252-259.
- Johnson CD, Green BN, Nelson RC, et al. Chiropractic and concussion in sport: A narrative review of the literature. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. 2013;12(4):216-229.