There has been a lot of talk lately suggesting that parents should consider removing their children from sports due to the risk for concussion.
All sports have an inherent risk for injury, but some high speed or contact sports may have a higher risk than others.
The reality is that injuries like concussions can happen at any place at any time. On the field or on the ice. In the baseball diamond. On the playground or while riding a bike. Due to a car crash. Or, because of an accidental slip and fall.
Concussions are a real injury with potential for long-term impact, but improper management may be the real problem. Research shows that if the injury is managed appropriately, most patients recover from a concussion without any additional or serious consequences such as long-term cognitive, physical or emotional problems.
Because there is no way currently to prevent a concussion, and we understand that proper management and full recovery is critical, we believe that the benefits of sport for children can outweigh the potential risks.
1. Physical activity and exercise
iPad. iPod. iPhone. Tablet. Playstation 4. Nintendo 3DS. Microsoft Xbox One. Oculus Rift VR. PC.
The number of handheld screens, gaming systems and virtual reality platforms nearly equals the number of sports available to kids today.
Too much screen time, a sedentary lifestyle, and lack of physical activity and exercise have contributed to our global obesity problem.1
Participation in sport can help to promote health and wellness in our children and youths at an early age. Many people who grew up playing sports often continue to play in recreational or competitive leagues as adults, contributing to overall health and well-being throughout their life.
In fact, a recent article from the British Journal of Sports Medicine states: “it is generally more dangerous for youth to be sedentary than to risk injury playing a contact sport. And for many kids, sports are the only thing that will get them away from their smartphones and off the couch.”2
2. Food and nutrition
Participation in sport may make children more aware and conscious of their food choices. They will learn that certain foods can provide more energy than others, which can help them to excel on the field or on the ice. These healthy food decisions can last a lifetime.
3. Build character
Participation in sport can help to build self-esteem, leadership and a range of other skills that can impact child development. Becoming a member of a team or competing as an individual can have a positive impact and build self-confidence. Children and youths can learn about themselves and their ability not only as an athlete, but as a person.
Sport also teaches discipline.
Playing sports also creates a sense of responsibility in children and youth. They learn time management skills by way of being on time for practices and games. They learn respect for their coaches, teammates and opposition. They learn to play as a team and understand their responsibilities as an athlete on and off the field.
4. There is no ‘I’ in team
Teamwork and collaboration is an important aspect of everyday life. Sport teaches children about the importance of trusting friends and teammates, and learning how to work together to achieve a common goal. These skills will go a long way in all aspects of life – regardless of what they choose to do as an adult.
5. Real social skills
Liking, swiping and commenting will only go so far. Although digital communication is becoming the norm (and sometimes preferred norm), effective communication requires verbal and non-verbal communications skills.
Athletes require various forms of communication with people at all levels to be successful in their sport. Youth athletes learn how to talk to their peers as well as their coaches. They understand how non-verbal communication can send a message in the right or wrong way, such as a celebration after a goal or a frustrated look after a miss.
Friendships and social networks built in sport often extend into a child’s teenage years, and sometimes into adulthood.
Concussion treatment and rehabilitation in sports
Concussions are part of the game, but proper management can help to reduce symptoms and improve recovery.
Rest is no longer considered the best approach to concussion care. Research shows that various therapies – such as manual therapy, vestibular, and visual rehabilitation and exercise therapy – can significantly improve recovery. Through a thorough assessment and the right treatment approach, trained healthcare practitioners can help athletes safely return to learn, work and play following a concussion injury.
1 Fact Sheet: Obesity and Overweight. World Health Organization. 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en.
2 MacDonald, James and Myer D, Gregory. ‘Don’t let kids play football’: a killer idea. 2017. http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/20/1448.