SHAWNEE, Kan. — One in five teens say they’ve had at least one concussion, and a new study finds young girls might be waiting too long to get treatment.
Ashley Williams makes tumbling passes look easy. She loves cheerleading, especially high-level competition.
“It’s just so much fun and the environment is like amazing. The people are so encouraging, and it really pushed me to become such a better athlete,” the 16-year-old junior at Mill Valley High School said.
But right now, she’s not cheering on the sidelines or training to compete. During a high school cheer practice last month, she was dropped from the air, her head hitting the ground.
“I immediately felt off. The lights were hurting my eyes. I felt nauseous. My head was hurting,” she said.
The diagnosis: a concussion.
“It really is important for parents to know what’s going on, the athlete to know what’s going on, to recognize signs and symptoms,” said Dr. Brian Harvey, a pediatric sports medicine physician with Children’s Mercy.
Even though concussion spotting and testing has gotten a lot better, new research shows there’s still room for improvement.
Young female athletes are found to delay important treatment, which can have a huge impact on recovery.
“If you get into a clinic within seven days, your symptoms typically don’t last as long,” Harvey said. “So it’s really important once you get that head or neck injury that you have symptoms associated with it, to get pulled out and get evaluated by your physician or a sports medicine doctor so your symptoms potentially won’t last as long.”
Thankfully, that’s just what Ashley did.
But healing hasn’t been easy. She’s missed a lot of school, and simple activities like using a computer, driving and being in noisy environments have been challenging.
The team at Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center in KCK have been helping her regain balance, sharpen control, vision, and honing her skills, with the goal of being competition ready by spring.
“It’s been amazing. I feel like I’d not be nearly as far along with my progress of getting better without this,” Williams said.
Doctors say continuing to improve concussion awareness and education, and making sure head injuries are spotted fast in both male and female athletes, is key to helping all students like Ashley get back to normal including to the sports they love.
Experts note there is no “one size fits all” treatment for concussions. That’s yet another reason it’s critical for athletes to get checked out quickly — to find what treatment will be best, based on their symptoms.