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Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are becoming increasingly popular due to claims they provide a competitive edge. Unfortunately more and more children and teenagers are drinking them, which can lead to some serious health concerns.

Ann Slattery is with the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama. She says between 2014-2015 they received 152 calls regarding children, mostly between the ages of 13-19 years old, suffering toxic effects from energy drink consumption.

“They contain caffeine, and they also contain herbals that are like caffeine like Yerba Mate, Guarana and Kola Nut. And these are not listed as caffeine but they add more caffeine to the drink”, she says.

Some of the negative symptoms associated with energy drinks include:

  • Agitation
  • Tremors
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Slattery says there’s also concern because of evidence on a national level that children as young as five years old are gaining access to and consuming energy drinks that are in the home. “They’re being left out, they think they’re cola, they’re drinking them. They can have severe symptoms, cardiac problems as well as seizures,” she says.

Exposure of Young Children Can Cause

  • Severe Cardiac Problems
  • Seizures
  • Hospitalization

Aside from these risks, energy drinks contain a lot of sugar and caffeine- sometimes as much caffeine as in 1 to 3 cups of coffee. Excessive caffeine comes with its own set of problems — especially in younger kids, it can negatively affect attention and concentration.

Slattery also warns parents to be on the look out for a substance called Kratom. Kratom is sometimes added to energy drinks but also sold alone. She says, “At low doses it’s a stimulant and at high doses works like a narcotic, it can cause CNS (central nervous system) depression so they can become drowsy or even comatose.”

Kids who participate in sports should learn that they can improve their game through hard work and practice — values that will serve them well both on and off the field. Eating well, staying hydrated, exercising, and getting enough sleep will help them feel energized. Parents should teach their children just because something is sold in a store doesn’t mean it’s safe.  Encouraging kids to believe that they need something “extra” to perform at their best is a slippery slope that may lead to the use of other performance-enhancing substances. Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Former NFL Pro Shares Personal Experience to Teach Concussion Dangers

Kevin DrakeKevin Drake is living proof of the damage a concussion can cause. During his years as an amateur and later as a professional athlete, he’s had 10 of them.

“I live with the aftermath of that every single day of my life,” Drake said. Now he has migraines that last four to five days and has suffered from debilitating headaches for the past 14 years.

Drake is a former quarterback and wide receiver for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He played four seasons in the NFL and two summers for NFL Europe. Today, Drake is program director of the WiseUp! Initiative, an organization that brings awareness and education on the various dangers and issues surrounding concussions, as well as raising research funding for the advancement in concussion research. He will be speaking at the third annual Concussion Summit on Friday, April 15 at Children’s of Alabama. Hosted by the Concussion Task Force at Children’s and the Wise Up! Initiative, the day-long conference is open to the public and will include presentations targeting coaches, athletic directors and trainers, school leaders and nurses and parents.

Drake suffered his first concussion at age 12 when he was hit in the face with a baseball during a game. More concussions followed, and “none of them were treated properly. Today, we know too much to keep doing the same things. We didn’t rest and went right back in the game. We know now how dangerous that was.”

As a former player, he understands how hard it can be to admit you may be hurt. “When you’re part of a team, you don’t want to let your teammates down, but it’s a mistake if you stay in the game. You have to make the decision to tell your coaches and pull yourself out of the game,” Drake said.

One of his goals with his concussion training sessions is to help young athletes understand just how serious concussions are. “Let’s call it what it really is. A concussion is a traumatic brain injury.” Drake said concussions are an “invisible injury.” You can see a broken arm or a broken leg, but “you can’t see a concussion. I wish we could because that would show the seriousness,” Drake said.

Drake tells players that they need to be on the lookout for any of their teammates who may get hurt during a game. Sometimes the injury may occur on a part of the field where the coaches don’t have the best view of the play. “You’re now liable for your buddy. Peers need to look out for their peers on the field. You train as a team, and you need to take care of each other,” Drake said. “I want these kids to understand how dangerous it is not to say something.”

It’s important for young players to speak up for themselves or their teammates because once you’ve had a concussion, the chances of future concussions increase. “There’s a very high chance a concussion can cause permanent damage. It’s just not worth it,” Drake said.

If your child does experience a concussion, it’s important that they be seen by someone trained in current concussion care practices, Drake said. The Concussion Clinic at Children’s of Alabama was established to provide evaluation, treatment and medical clearance for “return to play”  and “return to think” for youth and teenage athletes in our community. The clinic is staffed by skilled athletic trainers, nurses and physicians from Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine and Sports Medicine with support from Neurosurgery, Emergency Medicine and Neuropsychology. These specialists work together to optimize the management of children and adolescents who have suffered a concussion.

The dangers of concussions have attracted a lot of recent media attention as current and former players have come forward with stories of how concussions have impacted their lives. “We’ve come so far in terms of concussion awareness and medical research, but there’s still a long way to go,” Drake said.

For more information about the Wise Up! Initiative and their educational programs, visit www.wiseupinitiative.org.

For more information about the Concussion Clinic at Children’s of Alabama or to register for the Concussion Summit, visit http://www.childrensal.org/concussion

 

Return-to-Learn Recovery Time Gives Brain Time to Heal After Concussion

It may be obvious that your child needs to take a break from sports and other strenuous physical activity following a concussion. It’s just as important that they take a break from cognitive activity as well. Dr. Erin Swanson

“A concussion is a brain injury, and the brain needs time to heal,” said Dr. Erin Swanson, assistant professor, UAB Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine. Swanson sees patients at the Concussion Clinic at Children’s of Alabama. This clinic is staffed by skilled athletic trainers, nurses and physicians from Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine and Sports Medicine with support from Neurosurgery, Emergency Medicine and Neuropsychology. These specialists work together to optimize the management of children and adolescents who have suffered a concussion.

Cognitive rest means a break from school, a reduced amount of homework and reading and screen time. These are all activities that could exacerbate concussion symptoms. Concussion symptoms typically include headaches, confusion, nausea, dizziness and blurred vision. Most symptoms subside within a few days to a week, but could linger for much longer, Swanson said.

“For children still experiencing concussion symptoms it’s important not to go back full-force and instead make a gradual return to school,” Swanson said. “Some children need to return to classes initially for half days, then pacing forward to full days will help the recovery process.”

Swanson said your child should avoid activities that trigger concussion symptoms. Activities such as concentrating in a classroom or taking tests could be hard for your child following a concussion. And once back at school, your child may need to take small breaks throughout the day if any of the symptoms return.

And while there are laws that address a student-athlete’s return-to-play following a concussion, return-to-learn has its place in the recovery plan too. “We need to remember that they are students first,” Swanson said.

Although each child’s concussion recovery will be different, Swanson said there are some general guidelines for parents. “You don’t need to put your child in a bubble or isolate them in a dark room, but you want to help them avoid anything that makes the symptoms worse,” she said.

She recommends these tips:

  • Limit screen time to a maximum of one hour per day. This applies to TV, computers, tablets, cell phones and video games.
  • Keep things low key around the house. Now may not be the time to attend events with loud noises or bright lights.
  • Your child may benefit from more sleep than usual in the early recovery stages. You don’t need to wake your child, but check on him/her to ensure he/she is responsive and breathing normally.

Swanson said research about concussions continues to evolve, and doctors are still learning new information about how to help patients recover from their concussions. Some of that information will be shared during the third annual Concussion Summit on Friday, April 15 at Children’s. Hosted by UAB Sports Medicine at Children’s and the Wise Up! Initiative, the day-long conference is open to the public and will include presentations targeting coaches, athletic directors and trainers, school leaders and nurses and parents.

For more information about the Concussion Clinic at Children’s of Alabama or to register for the Concussion Summit, visit http://www.childrensal.org/concussion.