Expert Interview: Dr. Richard Parkinson
Our understanding of the brain has never been greater, particularly how the brain reacts to unnecessary force and trauma. Dr. Parkinson is a Sydney based neurosurgeon with a special interest in sports related injuries.
This is an area of particular concern for parents of children who play contact sports and want to be sure that in the pursuit of fun, their child does not sustain harm.
Dr.Parkinson reports that the most injury-prone sport for girls appears to be ice hockey but in terms of the overall number of injuries from a particular sport?
Rugby League is the clear winner.
What sports are the most Risky?
• Australian Football League (AFL)
• Rugby League
• Rugby Union
• Soccer-due to head clashes, head to elbow/knee/foot/head
The most common neurological (nerve), sports related injuries affect the upper and lower back and the spinal nerves which supply the arms.
Although surgery can be very effective, the key is to try and prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.
Does Protective Head Gear Help?
Yes it does but only to a point. What happens in a clash is that the brain keeps moving even when the body has stopped. This means that the soft tissue of the brain collides with the hard bony skull and it is this force combined with the rapid deceleration which causes brain and neurological trauma.
Injuries are also related to the size and velocity of players; the bigger and stronger the players the more likelihood of injury.
This is particularly the case for boys aged between 13-16 years.
Dr. Parkinson reports that at no other window of time is there such a dramatic difference between individual sizes of kids. With increasing height also comes increasing weight and velocity which adds to the potential for damage.
How to Lower the RisksDr. Parkinson recommends the following for Players and Coaches
• Keep the game fun and discourage any fighting or dangerous habits within the game.
• Make sure all players know the game rules, including what’s legal and what’s not.
• Be mindful of other players.
• Communicate on the field.
• Don’t let an injured or recovering player back on the field.
• Parents, coaches and doctors all have their parts to play in helping kids avoid being harmed through sport related injuries.
• Make sure kids are supervised well by properly trained coaches.
• Ensure the team has a Head Injury Policy (HIP) and it is followed.
• If the child sustains a concussion they need to be taken off the field, each and every time.
What Parents need to do
• Prioritise spine health in the first place. Preventative activities are always worthwhile.
• Play an active and interested role in their children’s sports. Be there to watch games and be prepared if necessary, to advocate for their child if they are injured.
• Ensure their child is assessed by a doctor if they are injured or concussed.
• Ask about the team’s HIP and if it is always followed.
• If their child has more than three concussions in a season they need to be evaluated by a sports physician.
• Always follow their “gut” feeling about their own child. If a parents senses their child is hurt or not their usual self then a medical assessment is always warranted.
• Be mindful of other kids who may be playing without a parent present. It may be necessary to advocate for them in their own parent’s absence.
Signs and Symptoms of Concussion
• Memory loss
• Nausea and/or vomiting
• Sensitivity to light
• Holding the head
• Ringing in the ears
• Not feeling right
• Vision and/or speech changes
• Loss of consciousness
• Coordination problems, for example a change in their gait, falling over, losing their balance and not being able to move their body and limbs as they usually do.Remember-there can be a delay of a few hours to a day or more between sustaining an injury and the symptoms of concussion.