New international guidelines have been developed to tackle the problem of sports-related concussion (SRC) in children and adolescents, but medical researchers admit they do not know enough about the long-term damage it may do to young people.

Every week across Australia, hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents descend on sporting fields, tracks and courts to take part in sport.

It is a healthy activity for most who will be cheered on by parents, friends and officials, but inevitably some will suffer a mishap.

According to The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, an estimated 33 million young people around the world will suffer a concussion every year, but only about one in 10 will go to hospital to receive treatment for their injury, despite evidence showing the effects of their concussion can linger for weeks.

“We know that children take longer to recover from concussion compared to adults,” said Michael Takagi, a neuropsychologist with the institute in Melbourne.

“Adults on average will recover in two weeks. The majority of children will recover in a four-week period [but] a significant minority will continue to have symptoms beyond the four-week time frame.”

Research on children ‘needs to be a priority’

Dr Takagi is one of the Australian researchers who were part of an international effort to review available medical evidence detailing how concussion affects the young.

Their recommendations have just been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine:

  • Children and adolescents are expected to take up to four weeks to recover following SRC
  • The widespread routine use of baseline computerised neuropsychological testing is not recommended in children and adolescents
  • Children only require a brief period of rest followed by gradual symptom-limited physical and mentally stimulating activities
  • All schools be encouraged to have a concussion policy and should offer appropriate support to students recovering from SRC
  • Children and adolescents should not return to sport until they have successfully returned to school, however early introduction of symptom-limited physical activity is appropriate

– Nick Grimm

Read More: Concussion in children is little understood and requires more research, experts say

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