New Protection For Children With Head Injuries


In 2012, in response to a new state law designed to protect student athletes from long-term effects of repetitive head trauma, Trauma Services at Cottage Children’s Hospital partnered with the Santa Barbara Unified School District to provide clinics for students needing medical evaluation and clearance to return to play after a concussion.


“Any brain injury that would be harmful for an adult is much worse for a young person whose brain is still developing,” notes Dr. Stephen Kaminski, Director of Trauma Services at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.


“And a person doesn’t have to be knocked out to suffer a concussion — less than 10% who suffer a concussion actually lose consciousness.”


Dr. Stephen Kaminski



“Adults have to be the ones to stand up and protect our student athletes. The warrior mentality of playing injured can be devastating—even fatal—if you’re talking about a brain injury. You can’t sprain your brain and play through it without potentially harmful consequences.


“If any symptoms are present, the brain requires physical and mental rest (no texting, video games, homework) in order to heal, and to prevent minor trauma from becoming a severe traumatic injury,” says Dr. Kaminski, who himself suffered a concussion during a soccer game years ago. “Generally this means at least a week of downtime with slow introduction of concentration.”


“We’re not saying to students, don’t play hard,” Dr. Kaminski ex plains. “We’re saying that if you’re injured you need to take care of yourself and protect your brain. Don’t play during symptoms.”


Things to know about MTBI (mild traumatic brain injury), also known as concussion:

  • Concussions may occur from the brain crashing against the skull internally, with no outward sign of injury and perhaps even with no direct impact to the head itself. This might be the case with a fall, automobile accident or a hard shoulder hit during sports — incidents that cause rapid neck movement, sending the brain accelerating toward the skull.
  • Concussions often occur without loss of consciousness.
  • In most cases, an MTBI patient will recover fully. However, the patient — especially an adolescent patient — is at extremely high risk if another, even mild, concussion occurs during the recovery period of the initial concussion.


Warning signs that may signal a concussion after an impact:

• Irritability
• Fatigue
• Change in sleep patterns
• Vomiting
• Headaches

• Dizziness

• Difficulty concentrating or general confusion
• Unsteadiness when moving
• Blurred vision
• Seizures


“We’ve learned a lot in recent years about the particular danger of continued play during injury and the long-term effects of repetitive trauma. The schools, athletic trainers and coaches have been really great about working with us to spread this message and to teach their athletes how to play safely,”  notes Jennifer Wobig, Trauma Program Manager. “We hope the new Trauma Clinic for concussions will raise awareness among students and parents so that they get the care and advice they need to recognize symptoms and dangers of brain injury.”


Concussions are often associated with football, and with male athletes. But the physiology of girls’ long, slender necks makes them particularly susceptible. Concussions can happen with any sport that causes an impact, and impacts to the head aren’t the only ones that can cause concussions.


Any bodily impact that causes the neck to jerk on its axis will send the brain crashing toward the skull. Girls playing youth soccer are at risk. Side impacts to the shoulder can cause concussions just as a direct head impact could.


“We need student athletes to be aware of what a concussion is, how it can happen, and how they can protect themselves. They need to be empowered to speak up if they are injured,” says Dr. Kaminski. “Because injury on top of injury can be devastating, and the brain may not be able to recover.”


 << Back to Cottage Magazine