The brain is the most complex organ in our bodies. It is only about 2% of the body's mass but uses 20% of the body's energy, producing enough power to illuminate a light bulb. With 100 billion nerve cells inside controlling every thought and action, it's even equipped with its own natural armor--the skull. But often, that's still not enough protection, because brain injuries are currently the leading cause of death and disability among youth in the United States.
"It's a myth that young kids cannot have concussions," said the chair of the Alabama Statewide Sports Concussion Taskforce, Dr. Joseph Ackerson. "A concussion is caused by any time of linear force striking the head so if you are moving then you come to a sudden stop and something else is moving like another player and collides with you and you collide. A recent study by Virginia Tech revealed that 8-10 year old football players are still having the same kind of force contact that high school and college players are."
The majority of sports-related concussions tend to happen during games for older athletes, while youth concussions occur in practice. Bicycling, football and playground activities cause the greatest number of brain injuries in youth. Despite the risks, the rising popularity of youth sports such as tackle football is starting with kids as young as five.
Every year, there are nearly half a million brain-related hospital visits in children 14 and younger. Falls are the leading cause and account for half of those, followed by collision related brain injuries accounting for 25%. Since damage is below the surface, not all concussions leave visible evidence.
"Your brain is actually floating," Dr. Ackerson said. "It's floating inside your skull it's surrounded by cyrbrial spinal fluid like the consistency of water and your brain is kind of soft like the consistency of firm custard. The brain is traveling along with the body so if your head is moving your brain's moving inside of it. When your head comes to a stop for whatever reason if it comes to a stop too suddenly that's when the brain is going to bounce up against the inside of the skull. Thats when an injury can occur."
With 100,000 miles of blood vessels throughout the brain, it's a complicated process to assess the body's most complex organ. Although there's no way to be completely safe from a concussion, you can lessen its severity by treating it immediately. When in doubt, check it out.
An easy way to learn more about concussions and how to recognize them is taking the government's free online concussion training course "Heads Up Concussion in Youth Sports" - http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/online_training.html
The course takes less than 30 minutes to complete and is avaliable to anyone. You can even print out a certificate once your done.
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