Kylia Baker has not recovered from her concussion she received last spring when she was hit in the forehead by a softball during practice.
Today she still has headaches, blurred vision, slurred speech and problems focusing.
“When I first got my concussion, I wasn’t allowed at school for a month, and I really got behind,” said Kylia. “The teachers didn’t fully understand that I couldn’t do the work.”
While most concussions are not this severe, a recent study by the University of Michigan shows that head injuries are common among young athletes.
And these injuries lead to serious problems.
According to the study, one in five teens has suffered a concussion, the main cause being participation in sports.
Out of 13,000 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, nearly 20 percent said they had suffered at least one concussion.
Almost six percent of the adolescents said they had been diagnosed with more than one in their life.
Some pediatricians think the numbers may be low because athletes and coaches fail to recognize minor concussions.
The study comes amid increased attention to head injuries among NFL players and other professional athletes.
“Little, however, is known about the prevalence of concussions among teens in the United States,” said Phil Veliz, a researcher at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, in a statement announcing the publication of the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
By definition, a concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury, which occurs after a blow to the head. The brain is surrounded by fluid and protective membranes called meninges, which usually cushion the brain.
During impact, the brain is pushed against the inside of the skull and the brain can be bruised.
Concussions can take place in a variety of ways, such as when a football player gets hit by an opponent, a player gets hit by a ball or even when two people collide in the hallway.
Symptoms can include headaches, blurry vision, slurred speech, confusion, loss of consciousness and in severe cases even death. Other symptoms may include memory loss, trouble sleeping and focusing, mood swings, depression and disorders with taste and smell.
Because all injuries are different, so is recovery. Without treatment, repeated concussions can result in permanent brain damage. Some symptoms can last for days, weeks, or longer.
Sophomore Lauren McDougal has suffered concussions from water polo, volleyball and, most recently, from falling off a horse. The recovery lasted for months.
“Most of the effects can last a long time after your brain has technically healed,” she said. “My brain was technically completely healed in the two months I still had effects for a year after.”
Symptoms have taken many form for McDougal.
“It’s really hard to remember stuff, and certain things can trigger very hard migraines so it is hard to do certain activities, and it is annoying because you can get limited from sports and other daily activities and it kills me because I do sports,” she said.
Making sure concussions are treated properly is a key point in recovery. Neurologists recommend an assessment for any head injury.
Most coaches have to learn how to identify and treat head injuries. Doctors and coaches will recommend you to rest your brain.
Doctors may recommend no reading, no screen time, no writing, no physical activity–and sometimes no music.
Straining your brain can make the concussion worse. When doing those kinds of tasks, you can get horrible headaches and feel dizzy. Keeping your grades up can be especially hard when you can’t do things like read or write.
“I ended up having a lot lower grades than I should have,” said Baker.“I couldn’t do anything, I just had to sit in a dark room. I was super sensitive to light so I couldn’t go outside or interact with my friends.”
Concussions can also take an emotional toll.
“I wasn’t allowed to go out, and I got really depressed in that time,” said Baker. “I think anyone would.”
There is no easy answer to prevent concussions.
Football players and bicyclist wear helmets and still get concussions. That’s because a helmet protects the skull, but not the movement of the brain inside.
Another way to prevent a concussion would be to not play any contact sports. However, just tripping and hitting your head can give you a concussion.
Experts advise that if you think you have a concussion, go to a concussion specialist, or even just your doctor. Just doing this simple task can make a world of a difference.
Staff writer Kayla Sanders contributed an interview to this article.