Professional boxer Josesito Lopez and Joey Gee, M.D., discuss the importance of knowing the symptoms of concussions and understanding the recovery process. Dr. Gee is chair and director of Neuromedicine and Stroke Services at Mission Hospital’s Neuroscience and Spine Institute in Mission Viejo, CA. Mission Hospital is part of the St. Joseph Hoag Health network.
So your child wants to box or play a contact sport like football and you’re wondering, “Should I be worried about concussions?”
Before you sign that permission slip, you should know the facts. For example, of all high school sports, football presents the highest risk of concussion. Athletes have a 75 percent chance of getting a concussion during their high school years, according to the Sports Concussion Institute.
Parents must take a proactive approach to try to reduce the number of head injuries that send young athletes to the hospital – or worse, go unnoticed. Advancements in the prevention and treatment of concussions are making a difference, and being aware of the signs is one of the most important things a parent can do.
We sat down with two experts to help you better understand the issue. First, we chatted with professional boxer and world title challenger Josesito Lopez, who has taken many blows to the head resulting in concussions.
- How did you get your most recent concussion?
My last concussion was actually just as a few fights ago. After a solid hit, I suffered a headache and slurred speech that lasted for a couple of days.
- What protocol is followed once a concussion is diagnosed?
It all depends on how severe the concussion is. Each time and each case are different, but we work with our trainers and medical team to decide the best course of action. Sometimes it means no boxing or training for anywhere from three days to a full month.
- What are the typical symptoms of a concussion that you’ve experienced?
I know there are fairly common symptoms people can look for. With me personally, my concussions have resulted in loss of balance, headaches and sometimes either a slurring or a stuttering in my speech.
- Question: How many concussions do you think you’ve had throughout your career?
When you’re in a sport that involves a lot of head hits and sudden, jarring movement of the head, it’s almost impossible to say. I know I’ve suffered at least three very serious concussions.
- Why is it so important to fully recover between concussions?
When you’re talking about something as important as your brain and your overall health, no risks should be taken. It’s really important to make sure you regain your mind and body functionality. Rest and recovery are important. You’ll know when your mind and body are back in sync.
- The American Association of Neurological Surgeons says 90 percent of boxers have some kind of brain injury, yet there is no concussion protocol. What do you think the boxing commission should do as a next step?
I think the most important thing we can do for this sport is to be more proactive in explaining the dangers of boxing and the dangers of continuing to train and box when you aren’t 100 percent. Recovery is an important topic. It needs more attention.
- Have you noticed any medical advances related to concussion therapy and treatment during your career?
Honestly, I haven’t really. Some sports, like football, have constant updates to equipment, such as helmets, or even changes in rules and regulations, like helmet-to-helmet contact. But with boxing, it seems to stay pretty much the same.
- Do you use headgear and protective equipment in training?
Absolutely! It’s very important to take care of yourself and prevent any risk of injury any time you can. Training is such a major component in a professional athlete’s career. You spend more time training than actually in competition, so taking precautions there is critical.
- Have you changed the way you try to prevent concussions over the course of your career?
Preparation is very important. As I mentioned, training is a huge part of my career, so taking precautions and preventative measures is key. Unfortunately when you are in a live fight, concussions seem to come along with the territory!
- Do you think a time could come in your career where you’d choose to leave the sport to protect yourself from further concussion-related issues?
I think that’s always a possibility. Long-term health is something I think every fighter thinks about, and you’re always considering what’s best for you long term.
- Is there any advice you’d offer to parents who are worried about allowing their kids to start a sport with a high risk of concussion-related injuries?
The best advice I would offer is to make sure they get the proper training and to keep a close eye on any changes in their behavior after sparring and fighting. That will help them stay healthy. It’s a great sport, but the risk of a concussion is always going to be there, and it’s something they need to consider.
A doctor weighs in
Next, we chatted with Joey Gee, M.D., a neurologist who serves as chair and director of Neuromedicine and Stroke Services at Providence St. Joseph Neuroscience and Spine Institute at Mission Hospital.
We asked Dr. Gee what tips he would offer parents to help them recognize a concussion and what to do if their child has one.
Dr. Gee offered this advice:
- Know the risks: Five to 10 percent of athletes will have a concussion in any given sports season. Sports are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury among people 15 to 25 years old, second only to car accidents.
- Know the symptoms: Signs of a concussion can include mild pain, such as a headache, and nausea. Concussions can also cause cognitive and emotional problems, such as memory impairment and sadness. If your child has these symptoms, contact your physician.
- Encourage your child to sound the alarm if something seems wrong: Concussion symptoms can be easily overlooked, and players often believe they aren’t related to long-term health issues. Teach your child to recognize signs of injury.
- Keep your child out of the activity: Most children who have concussions return to the sport within days or a few weeks of their injury. Keep your children off the field or out of the ring for much longer—typically at least two weeks to a month.
- Educate yourself: The key to preventing concussions is education. Make sure that you, your child and his or her coaches understand the importance of protection during a game or practice.
To learn more about concussions, check out some of these articles
Numbers on youth concussions may be much higher than thought »
Protect your child from concussion and other head injuries »
Watch for Signs of Concussion in Your Young Athlete »
Giving Parents a Heads up on Youth Concussions »
Football helmets: Increased cost does not equal better protection »
Knock Knock - Sports-Related Head Injuries are No Joke »