This year 3.5 million kids playing football and other sports will be treated for a sports injury. Many will suffer their first or a repeat concussion. We have more on what parents need to know to keep their kids safe after brain injuries.
They happen all the time and at all levels, but it hit Mason Smith by complete surprise.
"I remember playing but I woke up in the hospital," Mason told Action News.
The 14-year-old tri-athlete got his first concussion during a pickup game of basketball.
"They took pictures of my brain and he thought he saw some bleeding in the brain," Mason said.
"He kept asking the same questions over and over again and it really alarmed me as a parent because he never had a concussion and I would've never have known that that was one of the things that happens," Jennifer Smith, Mason's mother told Action News.
And she's not alone. A recent survey shows many parents don't recognize the red flags. Only eight percent know the risks of repeated brain injuries.
"That actually can be a catastrophic problem if someone actually reinjures their brain before it's fully healed," Dr. Mark Halstead, Director of The Sports Concussion Clinic at Washington University School of Medicine In St. Louis told Action News.
So what are the consequences of getting back in the game too soon? Worsened symptoms, longer recovery or death. The answer is all three! Young athletes are also at higher risk of second impact syndrome
"While they're still recovering from their first they can develop massive swelling in their brain and they can die," Dr. Halstead said.
There's also higher risk for post-concussion syndrome.
Next can your diet help speed up recovery? Studies show omega 3's can help decrease nerve cell damage and creatine found in meat may also help.
Next can mouth guards and high-tech helmets prevent a concussion? While they provide protection some believe they're more of Hail Mary. Before hitting the field, your football players should do a helmet check ---for loose attachments, broken welds and cracks in the temporal area. While knowing what to look for is key, Dr. Halstead says when in doubt, sit them out.
"It's better to miss one game than miss the season which often times happens for these kids if they continue to force themselves to play," Dr. Halstead concluded.
How often should you wake a kid up who's just had a concussion? While the traditional rule has been to wake up a concussed athlete every three to four hours, Dr. Halstead says one of the best things for the brain after a concussion is rest. Mason slept 44 out the 48 hours following his concussion.
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Washington University School of Medicine