Four hundred and three. When the number refers to youth concussions diagnosed at FMC in just the past two years, it is a sobering figure indeed.
And those are just the cases that needed emergency medical treatment. Some children no doubt suffer concussions in falls from skateboards, games of dodgeball and playground mishaps without ever getting medical attention.
Medical professionals have long understood the dangers to the growing brain of sudden-impact injuries.
But it's only been in recent years as the football and boxing heroes of yesteryear have shown signs of dementia decades after repeated blows to the head that the issue has gotten attention.
Now, there are rules for all Arizona high school teams governing concussions and a state law as well.
Next up: Getting all athletes and their parents on board, despite a media culture that converts reckless behavior into entertainment and a sports culture that glorifies pain and suffering for the team's sake over self-preservation.
SECOND CONCUSSION MORE DANGEROUS
The first thing to know about concussions is that many don't result in a loss of consciousness.
The second is that the biggest danger is from a second concussion before full recovery, thus compounding the initial injury.
Yes, most youth concussions do not result in serious or permanent injury.
But it usually takes seven to 10 days to fully recover, during which time the brain should be given a respite from movement as well as thinking.
That's why a state law now requires the removal of a player from a game if a concussion is suspected and clearance by a physician to return to team play.
Athletes also must complete a concussion education course online and submit to baseline testing in the event they must be screened for a concussion.
PARENTS IN DENIAL
Coaches and athletic trainers now can rely on the rules and state law to fend off gung-ho athletes and parents who are in denial about the dangers of concussions.
Football teams now place a limit on contact drills, including bans on drills involving full speed, head-on contact.
Parents and athletes need to be reminded about the symptoms beyond loss of consciousness, including memory loss, dizziness, headache, nausea and confusion. They also need to understand that no helmet system can absolutely protect you.
Parents, of course, want their kids to be happy, which means supporting their goals.
But no child can be happy if not safe or healthy because of a concussion. With high school athletes getting bigger and faster than ever before and halfpipes getting higher, the risks are greater than ever. And athletes with a first concussion are six times as likely to suffer a second within five years.
Reality TV, of course, is not going away. It entertains by implying that young people are indestructible -- the shows rarely reveal the blood or the compound fractures.
Concussions don't usually show up on screen, either, which is why it is so crucial for parents and other adults in the lives of young people to harp on brain safety until it is almost second nature to children.
MAKE SURE LAW OBEYED
Flagstaff, for example, has had a law since 2009 that requires children under 18 to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. The Safe Kids Coalition also helps to underwrite the cost of helmets so that they cost no more than $10.
Now, though, it's up to parents, teachers and other adults to make sure the law is obeyed. As Heather Taylor of Safe Kids told the Daily Sun: "We can fix a broken arm. Brain injury is much trickier."
So let's not let our kids down. If they play contact sports, ride a bike or skateboard, ski or snowboard, get them head protection, tell them about concussions, make sure they tell you about any incidents, then monitor them for symptoms whenever they complain. A child's mind, as the saying goes, is a terrible thing to waste -- especially when we now know so much more about how to protect and heal it.
Our View: We know so much more about how dangerous they are -- and how to prevent and heal them.