Study says concussions at epidemic level in children playing sports

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SEATTLE -- A new study finds up to 2 million children across the U.S. every year suffer from concussions.

Local doctors say football injuries are not the only cases they are worried about.

The invisible injury can happen in any sport.

“She had a concussion,” mom Fran Ellul said, adding that her daughter suffered the injury during cheerleading in February.

“She was the base, she was lifting someone above her head,” Ellul said.

Her daughter had to take the stage with her team in a national competition and Ellul said the pressure to keep her daughter in formation was intense.

“I still felt the pressure (of) the other people around me, not wanting to let her team down,” Ellul said.

It’s a common problem that experts are now keeping better track of. Researchers at Seattle Children’s and UW just published a journal pinpointing the epidemic.

The study found that about 1.1 million to 1.9 million children under 18 suffer from concussions every year.

“We see a lot coming to the emergency rooms, some have to stay overnight to be monitored,” said Dr. Elizabeth Meade, of Seattle's Swedish Medical Center.

But the bigger concern are the hundreds of thousands of children who go untreated after suffering a head injury.

Researchers found that 512,000 to 1.2 million concussions are not being reported.

“If someone has a concussion and that really hasn’t healed all the way and they are injured again, that can be very serious. They can die from that, actually,” Meade said.

Doctors say parents and coaches need to look for subtle signs and educate their children about the dangers of the invisible injury.

“Does their head hurt, do they feel like they have to throw up, do they feel sleepy?” Meade said.

Meade added that if your child got more than light bump on the head and starts showing even minor symptoms, go to the hospital.

“They should take it more seriously as any other injury that you can see,” Ellul said.

Ellul’s daughter did not go through with the competition, a hard decision but the right one for her and her family.

“Nothing is more important than their well-being of your child, no money, no sport, no medal,” Ellul said.