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Concussions and the dangers to young athletes

A new study sheds light on the best treatment options for concussions

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports 3.8 million sports concussions a year, not just in football, but in all sports, among all ages. The pros get a lot of attention, but what is the best treatment for young athletes? Researchers are working now to answer that question.

Four months ago 14-year-old Nico Reyes banged heads with another player, suffered a concussion, and stayed in the game until he scored his third goal.  

Nico says, “This is hurting right now, because I just got hit, you got to get back up, you can’t cry about it. So, I got up and said I’m going to finish this game, and it was obviously the wrong decision.”

Dr. Wesley Mills with Mills Primary Care and Sports Medicine says it was also a dangerous decision.                                                                                                                                                   

"There's this thing called second impact syndrome if you get a second concussion before the first one has been resolved you could die, so it's very dangerous," says Mills.

Doctors diagnosed a mild concussion, but the top student started forgetting names, and his grades were in danger.  Now Nico is part of a pioneering study on concussions in young people. 

Researchers in Texas are collecting data on hundreds of concussion patients, including recovery time, gender differences and maturation differences from kindergarten through high school. 

C. Munro Cullum, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas said, “In the field we say that once you’ve seen one concussion, you’ve seen one concussion because no two are alike.”

Researchers are also determining the most effective treatments. The process starts before the sport even begins.  Doctors take a baseline test and if there's a traumatic event they do it again to see if there are any changes.   

"You're at a game and you have a concussion afterwards as soon as it happens you're pulled out of the game and then we have a return to play protocol but before you can go back you have to go back to your baseline on those tests," says Mills.

Dr. Cullum said, “You actually want to get someone back to their normal routine as soon as possible but there has to be some period of rest initially.”

Nico fears a second concussion and won’t be going for headers any time soon.  

Margarita Reyes, Nico’s mother says, “The first thing is health, he can’t play soccer if he is not healthy, he cannot do anything, if he is not healthy.”

 The CDC now has a section on its website called 'heads up to youth sports', with vital information about all aspects of concussions for coaches, parents, officials and young athletes.