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What is your child's risk of concussion playing sports?

As we head into August, parents thoughts turn to the 2017-2018 school year even as their kids try to wring as much fun from the summer as possible.

Soon, though, student athletes at all levels will begin grueling practices under the measuring eyes of whistle-blowing coaches. Destined to separate the chaff from the wheat, these practices often take as much out of young athletes as the games themselves do.

Concussions and contact sports

Theoretically, concussions can happen during almost any sport or activity if the perfect storm of factors converge. But they occur with far more frequency when kids play contact sports such as hockey, football and soccer.

A study published last year in The Journal of Pediatrics determined that almost 2 million concussions happen to kids during recreational and sports activities. What is concerning is that as many as 1.2 million of those concussions never get reported. That's a lot of kids whose brain injuries never get assessed or evaluated by a physician.

To be sure, most children's head injuries from contact sports result in mild concussions that can be treated with rest and inactivity. While that is reassuring, a mild concussion is still a brain injury. Also, the fact remains that some sports injuries leave children with debilitating traumatic brain injuries, which may have long-lasting or permanent effects.

Where the danger lies

The sexes are split regarding which sport places student athletes at highest risk of suffering concussions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's research over an 11-year period indicates that for girls, soccer injuries require the most emergency room visits. Boys still get most of their concussions playing football.

Both sexes, however, have seen an uptick in soccer injuries, which is attributable to the sport's increasing popularity among athletes of both genders. Back in 1990, only 106 of 10,000 players suffered injuries from the game. By 2013, those numbers had risen more than twice as much to 220 injuries per 10,000 players.

The fact that more kids are playing sports and suffering head injuries as a result means that coaches, trainers and parents all have to become more aware of ways to educate young players to safely move, block and score.

What's a parent to do?

As guardians of your children's safety, it's vital to make sure that when practicing or playing, the kids have the proper safety equipment, padding and helmets that can help prevent a minor injury from becoming major. In soccer, according to revised guidelines, no children 10 or younger should attempt to "head" the ball, and players age 11 to 13 should be greatly limited in heading attempts.

Even with all of the precautions and safety measures in place, it's inevitable that some kids will wind up hurt. If your child is one of them -- and the injury is linked to negligence on someone else's part -- you may need to pursue a personal injury claim on behalf of your child in order to pay for his or her present and future health needs.

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