PORTLAND, Maine (News Center)
t's been called the 'silent epidemic'. The Centers for Disease Control says about 3 million young athletes suffer from sports related concussions each year, but there are concerns that many more are not being diagnosed.
If left untreated, some concussion symptoms can lead to a lifetime of
f problems. A new law is set to go into effect in January requiring all ine high schools to have a concussion policy, but some experts say it's still not enough.
Football continues to rack up the most concussions for student athletes across the country.
But girls soccer is now a close second. The sport has seen a nearly 60 percent increase in pediatric concussions in the past decade.
'The same sport boys and girls play, the girls had two to three times more concussions than the guys in soccer,' said Dr. Bob Cantu, Neurosurgeon.
Dr. Cantu, is the chief of Neurosurgery at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts and is a Senior Advisor to the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine committee. He is considered a pioneer in the diagnosis and treatment of concussions. In his new book, 'Concussions and Our Kids' he offers advice for parents on how to keep kids safe from head injuries. Dr. Cantu believe girls are more at risk for concussions because of their anatomy.
'Their necks are weak, they are not as strong it you can see a blow coming and you tense your neck muscles and prevent your head from being swiveled you have a much better chance at avoiding a concussion,' said Dr. Cantu.
Dr. Cantu has also called for heading to be banned from youth soccer under the age of 14, because it is one most dangerous aspects of the sport.
'Because of the active heading that's when most concussions happen. From heads colliding with somebody's else's shoulder, elbow and upper arm. If we took heading out, the concussion risk drops drastically in soccer,' said Dr. Cantu.
But other experts say the focus instead needs to be on educating parents and coaches about the potential dangers if a student continues to play after a concussion.
'If they go back to play before they've recovered from their concussion, they take another hit, they run a real risk of having massive bleeding in their brain and die from that,' said Dr. Bill Heinz.
Dr. Heinz is orthopedist and is a leading concussion management specialist in Maine. He help draft a new law requiring every high school to develop a concussion management policy for determining when students can return to field and the classroom. It also states that a student will not be allowed to return to a sport or extracurricular activity until he or she has been cleared by a licensed health care provider trained in concussion management.
When Waynflete goalie Juliana Harwood suffered a concussion after being kicked in the head, the school's trainer recognized the symptoms and sent her to a doctor for an evaluation. Her Mom is thankful the school had a concussion policy already in place.
Still.. experts like Dr. Cantu worry about the millions of kids that play in youth leagues and clubs where no medical professionals trained to spot a concussion are available. He says the pressure must be on both coaches and parents to make sure that a student does not return to play until after they are evaluated and cleared by an expert. With a lifetime of potential health problems -- there is just too much is at stake.
For more information about concussion symptoms and other information you can go to www.cdc.gov/concussion/