In order to practice medicine, one must continuously weigh the potential risks of a given action against its known or potential benefits. Parents must weigh similar risks and benefits when deciding whether their children should participate in sports, particularly contact and collision sports.
While concussion is a risk in nearly all sports, the benefits from sports participation are innumerable. For children, sports:
- increases their physical health, cardiovascular conditioning, strength, and endurance
- improves their self-image
- decreases the risk of obesity
- helps them learn that they can improve their performance and skills through practice and hard work
- teach, in team sports, how to interact with their peers, to assist those who are less skilled, and to learn from those who are more highly skilled
- teach them how to cooperate and how to lead
- increase the chances that they will lead more active lifestyles as adults.
But what about the risk of injury?
Most athletes will recover completely from their injuries. So, while we all should try to decrease the number of injuries sustained by athletes, and treat athletic injuries appropriately when they occur, athletes should be encouraged to continue to participate in sports. Even after sustaining a concussion, athletes should be encouraged to return to their preferred sports, as long as it is medically safe to do so.
In summary, concussion is a risk in almost any sport. Certain combat and collision sports carry a higher risk of concussion than contact and noncontact sports. But the risks of concussion in contact sports, which do not involve purposeful collisions, are still significant. The risk of sustaining a sport-related concussion, however, are outweighed by the tremendous benefits that athletes derive from participation in sports. Concussions, if managed properly, should not prevent athletes from engaging in those sports that they love.
For a very small minority of athletes who experience multiple concussions, or significant, prolonged, or incomplete recoveries from their concussions, sports participation may be restricted to safer activities.
Excerpted from Meehan, WP. Kids, Sports, and Concussion (Praeger 2011).