“In some respects, I’m almost glad I don’t have a son because of the pressures he would face and the physical toll that it could possibly take on him. I would be real leery of him playing football,” said Brett Favre in an interview about the physicals risks of playing football.Brett Favre played football for over 20 years and is just starting to recognize the toll the game can take on your body, citing memory loss as one of his symptoms. It’s not just professional football players who should be concerned about the effects contact sports have on long-term health issues, especially when it comes to concussions. Over the past few years, doctors have started to expand their understanding of the seriousness of concussions, recognizing them as brain injuries with potentially long-term effects, including higher incidences of depression, dementia and neurocognitive issues.Concussions from youth sports have increased 66 percent from 2001 to 2009, making prevention and detection increasingly important. Some experts are blaming the “push through it” mentality players, coaches and even parents sometimes possess. When it comes to injuries during games, coaches and parents need to carefully look for signs of concussions, including fogginess of thought, slow movements, memory loss and repeating thoughts. And athletes need to feel empowered to listen to their bodies with the support of their coaches and teammates.“When it comes to brain injury, you don’t play with pain,” said Charles Dillard, MD director of the Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Clinic at CHoR. “Symptoms of a concussion are your brain telling you something isn’t right.”It doesn’t take a big hit to produce these symptoms. In order to avoid potentially serious and permanent damage, a player with any sign of concussion should not return to play before consulting a doctor. Known as second impact syndrome, athletes who return to play too soon and receive another blow, even a light one, face serious risk of brain swelling, coma and even death.Take the story of Maurice Stokes, an NBA basketball player who returned to a game after being knocked out and later became a quadriplegic due to brain trauma from a second collision. Sports collisions and concussions should not be taken lightly. Off the field, parents should keep an eye out for sensitivity to light and noise, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, mood changes, balance issues, depression and anxiety, as these can be signs of a deeper issue.Dr. Dillard reminds parents and patients there are risks, even when using protective gear that was previously believed to prevent athletes from serious injuries.“The brain stretches when it accelerates and decelerates quickly,” Dillard said. “Most people are unaware that helmets only protect against skull fractures, and other protective gear on the market has not made a significant difference in preventing brain trauma. It’s important to play by the rules and to know that returning to the game too soon could have devastating effects.”Fortunately for Richmond, CHoR has a specialized concussion/TBI. The multidisciplinary clinic includes physicians, nurses, psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and education consultants who work collaboratively to treat the whole child, not just the injury. For more information or to make an appointments call (804) 228-5818.Check out this video to learn more about 14-year-old Orion, an athlete who turned to CHoR to get him back in the game after a concussion.Do you and your teen athlete know the signs and symptoms of concussion? Are you teaching them to listen to their body? Let’s talk about it in the comments.