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Soccer head injuries devastating to young athletes

Ohio parents of children who play contact sports should be aware of the risks their kids face from concussions. The medical field is evolving regarding the diagnosis and treatment of concussions in children as well as adults. What industry professionals have learned is that early intervention may be key to mitigating damage — both now and in the future.

One adolescent girl in another state experienced first-hand the trauma that repetitive blows to the head can induce. The girl was a seventh grade soccer player who was forced to give up contact sports after a devastating head injury she experienced during an after-school practice.

It wasn't even a game

During a team scrimmage, the student athlete bumped heads with a teammate. She immediately fell backward, and her head struck the gym floor. To complete the injury trifecta, the soccer ball then rebounded off of her head.

Instead of heading off to the bench after she blacked out for a second, she instead finished the remaining 10 minutes of soccer practice. On her way home in the car, she began to realize that something major had happened to her.

A long recuperation

So began the months of sleeplessness, dizziness and agonizing headaches. The girl also lost 80 percent of the vision in one of her eyes and had to endure speech, vision, occupational and physical therapies.

Forget playing soccer again. She struggled to comprehend the words that she now struggled to read and forgot how to do subtraction and addition — skills that were far below what she was supposed to be learning.

Perhaps even worse was the derision she faced from her fellow students. Because concussions are invisible injuries, many doubted that she truly was affected. Some cruelly bounced plastic bottles off of her head in the hallways of her school. Even some staff members at her junior high appeared to dismiss the severity of her head injury.

Injuries are cumulative

The girl's parents, as well as a specialist in concussions at Oregon Health & Science University, believe that her condition was compounded by cumulative injuries that she suffered even before beginning her seventh grade year. She suffered a head injury the prior summer while being towed by a boat pulling an inner tube.

When she was still a toddler, she smacked her head on the cement. A few years later, she struck her head on the floor of a roller skating rink. The icing on the concussion cake was her injuries at soccer practice. She will never play another contact sport again in her life.

Parents must be vigilant

Kids and coaches cannot always be trusted to know whether a head injury causes a concussion. If you know or suspect that your child suffered a concussion, insist on taking them immediately to the hospital for evaluation and treatment. In some cases, it may be possible to recover financial damages related to a sports injury.

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