by Tatum O’Brien of O’Keeffe, O’Brien & Lyson

Each year, more than three million children in the U.S. participate in youth soccer, nearly twice as many as in 1990. While soccer is a popular sport, injuries are sending more young players to the emergency room with concussion symptoms.

According to a CBS News report, the rate of injuries from playing soccer ranks second only to football, likely because of the increased popularity of soccer and the fact that kids are playing the sport year-round in multiple leagues. While football-related concussions result in more ER visits than any other sport for boys, soccer is the top concussion-related sport for girls.

What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is a type of brain injury in response to head trauma. Concussions are a common type of sports injury. A blow to the head or hitting the head during a fall are common causes of concussions. Many soccer-related concussions occur when heads collide as players jump up to head the ball.People with concussions often cannot remember what happened immediately before or after the injury and may act confused. Paramedics and athletic trainers who suspect a person has suffered a concussion may ask the injured person if they know their name, what month or year it is and where they are.

Concussion Symptoms

Symptoms of a concussion may not become apparent immediately and may start days or even weeks after an injury. Some signs to look for in children include:

  • Unusual tiredness or listlessness
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Slurred speech or saying things that don’t make sense
  • Variations in school performance
  • Lack of interest in previously favorite activities
  • Loss of specific newly-acquired skills
  • Loss of balance
  • Nausea and vomiting

In most instances, a single concussion will not cause permanent damage. A doctor will diagnose a concussion with a neurologic exam and imaging tests. Most people will recover fully, but it can take some time. Rest is critical to help the brain to heal. However, a second concussion soon after the first one can be permanently disabling. Thus, it is imperative not to release the child back to play the contact sport without medical approval.