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Children, sports, concussions and vision impairment

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Children and sports go together like baseball and apple pie. Unfortunately, sports and concussions also go hand-in-hand, and children are no exception.

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 36.3 million U.S. children between the ages of 5 and 18 play an organized sport. While the health benefits of physical activity cannot be denied, it does comes with some risk.

Research shows that 1.3 million children visit the emergency room (ER) annually due to sports-related injuries. Of these, nearly 135,000 are due to concussion or other traumatic brain injury (TBI).1

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, between 2001-2005, 207,830 ER visits were due to concussions and other TBIs. Of these, 65 percent (134,959) of these involved children between the ages of 5-18.1 The highest rates for TBIs within this group are children between the ages of 10-14, followed by kids aged 15-19 years. Additionally, 70 percent of those injured where male.

TBIs can result in long-term, negative health consequences, including memory loss, behavioral and mood changes, and persistent headaches. Additionally, research tells us that, compared with adults, younger persons are at increased risk for TBIs with increased severity and prolonged recovery.2

Add to this the fact that vision problems and academic difficulties are highly prevalent in children who sustain a TBI, and that potentially spells trouble for kids and sports.

Kids, concussions, and vision

A study published in January 2017, researchers found that in children between the ages of 5 and 18 who had lingering symptoms 10 or more days after sustaining a concussion, 46 percent had vision problems such as blurred vision. Additionally, 29 percent reported having academic difficulties.3

Researchers noted, “Vision problems were commonly reported in children with concussions and were independently associated with those reporting academic difficulty.”3

The sports and activities most closely linked to TBIs include:

  • Horseback riding
  • Bicycling
  • Ice skating
  • Riding ATVs
  • Tobogganing / sledding

Other activities include football, basketball, and playground activities.

Researchers concluded that a comprehensive vision exam should be considered in children reporting academic difficulty and in the development of return-to-learn protocols following any concussion or TBI.

You can also take precautions to prevent a head and/or eye injury in the first place. This includes wearing the sport-appropriate headgear, including helmets and / or face masks; wearing sports eye safety goggles / glasses; and staying off the court or field following an injury until you have been cleared by a physician, including an eye care professional.


  2. McCrory P, et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport—the 3rd International Conference on Concussion in Sport, held in Zurich, November 2008. J Clin Neurosci 2009;16:755-63.
  3. Swanson MW, et al. Academic difficulty and vision symptoms in children with concussion. Optometry and Vision Science. 2017 Jan;94(1):60-7.

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