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Sep 13, 2013 8:18 AM by Elizabeth Hill

Reducing long term effects of concussions in young athletes

"There's no such thing as a mild brain injury."

A major misconception athletic trainer Tommy Dean is trying to change. When it comes to concussions he says it doesn't take a lights out hit to cause damage.

"Statistics show that less than 10% of concussed athletes have a loss of consciousness."

"We found that any ding, or bell ringing hits or anytime that you're dazed after a hit that those classify as a mild form of concussion."

Sports medicine specialist Dr. Stephanie Aldret says, unfortunately, there are no regularly used brain scans that can pick up a concussion.

"We look at CT scans or MRIs for evidence of a concussion, but we just don't see it."

Doctors and athletic trainers have begun relying on baseline cognitive testing to provide an apples to apples comparison.

"In the event they do sustain a concussion we're able to compare that score pre-injury to that athlete post-injury," says Dean.

"Otherwise it used to be, does your head hurt? No? OK, you're good to go," say Aldret.

Dean and Aldret say the hardest part about getting coaches, parents and even athletes to face the facts about concussions is the fact you just can't see it.

"You don't brace it, you don't cast it, you don't put it on crutches."

"You only have one brain and if that goes out you're dealing with life consequences at that point."

There are several basic warning signs and symptoms of a concussion coaches, parents and players need to look out for.

Some include headache, dizziness, vomiting, fatigue, and more serious signs like weakening on one side of the body or facial drooping.

Sometimes players may not speak up if they suspect they have a concussion.

Athletic trainers on the field certainly play a key role in identifying these symptoms, but Aldret says she's even talked to coaches who noticed a player wasn't performing like they normally would and called attention to it.

New state laws were implemented a couple years ago to better protect players, teams and coaches.

It's called the Louisiana Youth Concussion Act. The act is a proactive movement to educate families and institutions on how to better serve and protect Louisiana's youth. This act provides for:

New concussion education requirements for professionals, who regularly interact with youth athletes, to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion.

The removal of youth athletes from competition upon sustaining a concussion to protect young athletes from harm.

Requirements that must be satisfied for a youth athlete to return to play after sustaining a concussion or head injury to ensure their health.

The dissemination of concussion information to inform the public of concussion risks.

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