Sarah Cottrell suffered her first concussion in May 2009. She fell during a game, slamming her head against the ground. When she stood up, she felt dizzy and was pulled from the game. During the next few days, she continued to
have a headache, and also was sensitive to light. The following November, she traveled to Washington, D.C., for a tournament. While Sarah was trying to score a goal, an opponent tried to “check” her by hitting her lacrosse stick against Sarah’s. The stick hit Sarah’s head instead. That time, she blacked out for a couple seconds.
It wasn’t just the dizzying pain that worried Sarah Cottrell when she got whacked in the head with a lacrosse stick during an April game.
She already had suffered two concussions playing lacrosse, and a doctor had advised her to drop the sport if she sustained a third. “I knew if I got hit again, I’d be out for good,” said Cottrell, 17, a Norfolk Academy athlete.
She kept quiet about the injury at first but came clean the next day when she woke up with a headache and nausea. Sure enough, her doctor benched her. That advice is being formalized in new guidelines released today by the country’s leading group of pediatricians.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that youngsters with sport-related concussions be pulled from a game immediately. They should not return to the field that day, even if they feel better, and they should be cleared by a doctor before playing again. The guidelines in the journal Pediatrics also recommend that athletes quit the sport entirely if they sustain multiple concussions or have symptoms – such as headaches, lack of focus or nausea – for more than three months.
Sport concussions have generated a lot of discussion recently. They are of particular concern when children are involved, as their brains are still developing. Long-term effects are not fully understood, but some studies show that repetitive head trauma can lead to problems with focus, memory and learning.