BOSTON (CBS) – The Massachusetts health department says the number of emergency room visits for head injuries is going up. And that includes concussions that happen while playing sports.

Emma Harrington, a soccer player at Bishop Fenwick in Peabody knows way too much about concussions.

“My last one was the worst one,” Emma said. “I jumped up for a ball and got tangled up with a girl, and landed on my back with my head. I don’t remember the first few days after, but I was in a lot of pain. I was in dark rooms; I didn’t talk to anyone, no phone, nothing.”

A concussion happens when the brain bounces against the skull.

Numbers from a 2011 state Department of Health report show that over a decade, emergency room visits for kids with brain injury – including concussions – increased by 60 percent.

Dr. Grant Iverson is a concussion expert at the Home Base Program at Mass General Hospital. He says there are signs and symptoms that manifest right away.

“They might have an immediate headache,” he said. “They might have immediate dizziness. They might have immediate balance problems.”

And a day or two after the injury, Dr. Iverson says, headaches, dizziness, nausea, irritability, sleep problems and fatigue can set it. Dr. Iverson says most athletes recover within the first month.

Emma is fine now and wants to play soccer during her senior year, but she says she’s changing the way she plays.

“I’m more conscious of it now,” she said. “When I go up for a ball, do I have to go up for a head ball? Can I trap with my chest or with my knees? A lot of it is just being aware of the position you’re putting yourself in.”

While any sport can lead to a concussion, the most common culprits for boys are football, ice hockey, and lacrosse. And for girls? It’s soccer, lacrosse, and basketball.

Helmets can help protect people from skull fractures, but not concussions, which result when the brain rattles around in the skull after an impact.

But even the concussion expert says that parents shouldn’t avoid sport all together.

Sports play an important role in a child’s life like building self-esteem, providing motivation and developing interpersonal skills.

Plus, sports help keep kids in good physical health.

That being said, parents and coaches need to watch kids carefully, and if there’s any concern about a head injury, that player should come out of the game and be examined.



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