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Doctors warn parents about concussion risks
Pittsford, N.Y. -- As schools across Monroe County are about to begin, student athletes are hitting the field to start practice for Section Five sports.
Doctors are reminding parents to be aware of concussion risks and signs to look when they feel their child may have suffered a concussion.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, five to ten percent of athletes experience a concussion in any given sport season.
While the risks of getting a concussion for athletes are higher, 13-year-old Pittsford resident Justin Riley wasnt playing a sport when he suffered his concussion.
This past February, Justin went underneath the granite countertop to pick up a sheet of paper he had dropped in the kitchen. He stood up fast and ended up hitting his head on the countertop.
His mother, Lisa, told him to rub his head and asked Justin if he was okay. Justin recalled that his head didnt hurt that much at the time so Lisa and her husband figured it was just a bump on the head.
However over the next three days, Justins headache grew worse and worse. Eventually, four days after hitting his head, the Rileys decided it was time to take Justin to the emergency room.
He was just not himself, Lisa said. He was really quiet. He just had this glazed over stare and was looking straight out the window.
Justin was diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome and started rehab treatments about two times a week. In the meantime, there were many things this athletic teenager could not do. Justin regularly ski raced, golfed and played lacrosse. All those activities were now out of the question.
He was having problems swimming, Justins father Kress recalled. He couldn't ride a bike. He didn't want to hit golf clubs. He was just chill. It wasn't him.
He couldnt attend school full time either because he became sensitive to lights and sounds. He couldnt concentrate on school work because his head hurt too much. Math problems that usually took five minutes to complete, took one hour for Justin.
According to Dr. Mark Mirabelli, of URMC Sports Medicine, most people dont realize how common concussions are and how they are not always sports related.
I think people would be really surprised how frequently these things happen and how they are ignored or written off as just a bump of the head, Mirabelli said.
He says that in the past few years there has been a greater focus on concussions. So much so that there are millions of concussion diagnoses each year compared to just thousands a few years ago.
Mirabelli says that the rate of cases hasnt increased. Rather, concussions have become easier to recognize.
As the medical knowledge has grown, people have started to realize that the consequences of a concussion is quiet severe, Mirabelli explained. Sometimes patients can end up with symptoms that last for months or permanently.
Mirabelli says players participating in football, soccer, lacrosse and hockey are more likely to suffer a concussion, but studies show that 47-percent of athletes do not report feeling any symptoms after a concussive blow.
For the two months following his concussion, Justin went to rehab to work on balance and cognitive rehabilitation.
Now, Justin is ready to enter the 8th grade and hes been given an all clear from doctors to start sports again. He plans on participating in crew, ski racing and golf. Doctors have told him to hold off on lacrosse for now because the chances of getting another concussion are greater once youve already had one.
The Rileys say theyve learned a lot from this experience. While they joke that they would like to keep Justin in a bubble to keep him safe, they know thats not possible.
If they had one piece of advice to give to parents, it would be to be aware of your childs behavior.
Thats how they knew Justins bump on the head was a lot more serious.
Just really be aware of your kids and when they are acting differently, Lisa said. That was the big thing for us. By the fourth day, he clearly he wasn't himself. You just need to be aware that this could be something more than you think.
On Tuesday, August 20, URMC and the YMCA are hosting a seminar titled Concussion Prevention. Mirabelli and two other doctors will discuss ways to protect yourself and your child against concussions and symptoms to look for.
The event will be held at URMC Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at 2064 Fairport Nine Mile Point Road in Penfield, NY 14526.
Admission is free, but RSVP is required. Reserve your seat by calling 341-4000 or stopping by the service desk at the Eastside Family YMCA.