Concussion concerns influence whether parents allow children to play sports

A Harris Poll survey conducted online in March 2017 on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association asked over 1,000 U.S. parents whether they allow or plan to allow their children to play sports given the risk of concussion—51 percent said yes, while 33 percent said it depends on the sport.

The remaining 16 percent of parents ruled out sports for their kids because of concussion risks.

It is estimated that more than 300,000 sports-related concussions occur annually in the U.S. and the likelihood of suffering a concussion while playing a contact sport is estimated to be as high as 19 percent per year of play.

Initial concussion symptoms include dizziness, headaches, and fatigue. In the long-term, concussions may cause negative emotional and cognitive changes.

The survey found 60 percent of parents who have allowed or plan to allow their child to play sports believe that the benefits —such as teamwork, self-esteem and fostering physical health—outweigh the risks of concussion. In that same group, 49 percent say there is protective equipment available to wear while participating in sports to prevent concussions.

Dave Baron, DO, MSEd, director of Global Center for Exercise, Psychiatry and Sport at the University of Southern California, offers advice for parents on the fence.

“The key is not avoiding sports altogether but getting involved with programs that take safety very seriously, have well-trained coaches and provide properly fitting safety gear, like helmets,” said Dr. Baron, an osteopathic psychiatrist. “There are socio-emotional aspects to sports and I encourage parents to consider all the risks and benefits, rather than focusing on a single risk.”

He also encourages parents to seek out programs that take precautions, like limiting full-contact practices, and teach good sportsmanship to minimize on-field aggression.

Dr. Baron cautioned that misinformation about concussions clouds decision-making and offered parents some critical facts.

  • You don’t need to get knocked out or lose consciousness to have a concussion—nor do you need to get hit in the head.
  • Depending on the severity, concussion symptoms can last from a week to a couple months or even a year. Players should avoid risking another concussion before the first is fully healed because concurring injuries can have lasting effects.
  • High-intensity collision sports, like football and boxing, carry the same risks for kids and adolescents as they do for adult athletes.


Joelle Rehberg, DO, FAOASM, is medical director of the athletic training education program at William Paterson University, and works with youth concussions at Atlantic Neurosurgical Specialists in Morristown, New Jersey. An osteopathic sports medicine physician, Dr. Rehberg notes that while awareness of concussions has grown dramatically, parents, coaches, and even some doctors are not as educated about how to identify and treat them. As a result, concussion is often misdiagnosed in children.

“People don’t realize that how your brain responds to a hit can be greatly determined by several factors outside that particular impact. Having the proper amount of nutrition, hydration and rest can make the difference between a kid not being affected by a hit and able to play on, or sitting on the field, feeling dazed,” she explained.

While Dr. Rehberg encourages parents to allow children to play sports, she also advises balance for student athletes.

“Kids are in a critical period for physical, emotional and cognitive development. They need time to recover between games and practices, as well as time for family and academics. If they were allowed that, I think we’d see them become more resilient to the hazards of sports and we would see fewer injuries in general.”

If concussion is suspected, Dr. Rehberg says parents and coaches should have the athlete evaluated and monitored. Symptoms must completely subside before resuming full practice and competition.

For more information on preventing and recognizing concussions in youth sports:

HEADS UP to Youth Sports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

HealthyChildren – AAP – Concussions

Concussion Information from Brain Injury Association of America

National Federation of State High School Associations Online Concussion Courses for students, coaches and parents

Concussion Safety Laws By State

NCAA Concussion Information

Little League – Concussions in Youth Athletes

Cheer Safe Concussion Resources

USA Football Parent Guide

USA Gymnastics Concussion Information (links in left sidebar menu)

USA Hockey Concussion Information

US Lacrosse Concussion Awareness

USA Rugby Concussion Protocol

US Youth Soccer Concussion Education

2017 Stars on Ice: Q&A with Charlie White, Olympic ice dance gold medalist


As the world awaits next year’s Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, here in the United States the wait will not be quite as long. The 2017 Stars on Ice tour arrives at Hershey’s Giant Center on Thursday, May 4, with figure skating’s ultimate preview of Olympic hopefuls.

Returning with Stars on Ice are reigning Olympic Ice Dance Gold Medalists, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Davis and White are the first American ice dancers to win the World title, as well as the first Americans to win the Olympic ice dancing gold medal, accomplishments backed by years of training and dedication to the sport of figure skating.

A few weeks ago, Central Penn Parent caught up with Charlie White to talk about the upcoming tour, as well as glean some “youth sports wisdom” to pass along to parents raising their own Olympic hopefuls.

We also reached out to skaters from figure skating clubs in the Midstate, asking them to send us their questions for Charlie—together, the kids came up with a great interview!  (Photo Credit: Minori Yanagishima.)


Stars on Ice – new year, new show

Central Penn Parent: Show skating is much different than competitive skating, and this year two new, young skaters are joining Stars on Ice — Men’s and Women’s U.S. National Champions, Nathan Chen and Karen Chen. When you and Meryl first joined Stars on Ice, how did you make the transition to being part of a touring show?

Charlie White: I was very lucky, our first tour with Stars on Ice was after the 2010 Olympics. My girlfriend, now wife, Tanith (Belbin White), had done many tours with Stars on Ice and she was on that tour. She was really able to help guide me through the ups and downs. Stars on Ice is always such a fabulous experiences. All the skaters are so close, despite that fact that so many of us have competed against each other. We do feel like a family. And I think that translates well onto the ice.

CPP: How is this year’s Stars on Ice show different from past shows?

CW: The unfortunate passing of director Jef Billings has left a huge hole in the hearts of the Stars on Ice family. But the director’s role is being filled capably by Jeffrey Buttle, who is a World Champion Canadian skater and who will also be doing the choreography for the show. I think what he brings as a director and choreographer is a sense of how fun skating is. I’m really expecting that to be the highlight of the show. The exuberance and fun, the steps and the personality he’s able to pull from every skater is exceptional.

Youth sports, growing up on ice, and finding balance

CPP: Growing up, you figure skated, played hockey and you also played violin. What were the expectations regarding academics in your house and how did you balance school, sports and other activities?

CW: Everything was balanced tenuously. When you’re doing that many things, it’s not easy, it’s very challenging. All of the things I was so fortunate to take on, it was of my own choosing, so doing it all felt like the right thing to do.

There was no question in my parent’s heads from day one that school was the most important by far. If I was going to be missing school for hockey tournaments or for figure skating competitions, I had to be in perfect standing with my teachers, to be getting my work done. I understood the consequence and I was able to appreciate the aspects of education that I think are too often viewed as busywork. I enjoyed learning, and my school focused on building an individual, as opposed to building just an academic entity.

The balance of going to school also allowed me to better appreciate the sports and violin. And I can attest to that, because after I graduated high school, Meryl and I took a year off before we started attending the University of Michigan. We were just skating, and it was more than just a hobby. It really started to feel overwhelming because I didn’t have a good balance.  It was just skating all the time, and that can be OK. But, definitely, to give kids the best opportunity in life, balance is important.

CPP: How can parents best support kids in their sport without being “that parent”…maybe pushing kids too hard or setting goals that aren’t in line with what the child wants? How can parents be good sports parents?

CW: That‘s a great question. It’s not easy, and it’s different for every kid. But I think there are two main things that really come into play for a kid to be able to get the most out of a sport.

The first is to help kids focus on having fun. With so much in life and school, there are pressures and expectations. It’s not getting easier to be a kid. Sports are something that should be enjoyable. I’m not saying it’s always easy, but parents should try to find ways to make it fun for the kid.

That leads to my next point: That kids should always try their hardest. Always give 100 percent. And the two really go hand in hand. If you want to be able to have fun, the surest way to get the most fun out of anything is to give 100 percent. Doing so increases your skills, your appreciation for the difficulties of a sport, and it increases the rate at which you improve, which leads back to allowing you to have more fun. Mastery of skills leads kids to having a good time. It’s not a bad thing to enjoy competition, it’s not a bad thing to enjoy winning, but ultimately it’s about having fun.

So I would tell parents to focus on those two things. If your kid isn’t holding themselves accountable for effort in a sport, it’s easy to make it clear that it’s not a right to participate in an extracurricular activity, it’s a privilege. Sports are a special opportunity to learn about others, learn about yourself and to have fun. And if one sport is not for a kid, that’s OK. There are other ways to express yourself and enjoy sports.

CPP: Every athlete has a tough competition where maybe things don’t go as planned. Did you always deal well with that as a kid? And how did your post-competition self-talk change as you got older?

CW: I had many, many competitions where things went horribly awry. That’s just the nature of figure skating because it’s just so difficult, so hard. That can’t be understated. You want to perform your best and you commit so much time to it, and when things don’t go your way, it’s acceptable to be upset.

When I was a kid, I remember a specific sensation getting off the ice when I didn’t perform well and wanting to be able to turn around, go back out on the ice and give it another shot. What I recognized was that if I could prepare myself in any way possible so that I wouldn’t have to deal with that sensation, I would do the work. If you prepare as hard as you can–within reason, with the energy you have, with time allotted–you can only be disappointed to a degree. That’s something I’ve taken with me through my career, to say, “I‘ve done as much as I can, I listened to my coaches, I got enough sleep. If something doesn’t go right, I can honestly say it’s because figure skating is hard, and I can look in the mirror and know I didn’t let myself down.”

And I think that’s the case in anything in life, whether it’s sports or school.

Questions from local figure skaters. Meet them here!

 “Do you play other recreational sports that help you with figure skating?”  – Genya Schaller, 15, Hershey Figure Skating Club

Charlie White: I played soccer all through middle school, and I really enjoyed that. I did freestyle skating, dance and hockey. Those were my main three sports, I guess. I didn’t have a ton of time outside of that. In school, I made it a point to go get out and play any recreational sports that were going on at the time. But I really was a “rink rat.” I think what’s great about any sport off the ice is it brings a level of awareness to your skating that skaters are oftentimes missing because they primarily stick to the ice.  A lot of my friends who have had success at higher levels, a lot of times they are able to excel because of their comfort level doing thing that not all skaters are bodily aware of doing.

“What was your practice schedule like when you were 10 years old?” – Jonathan Plank, 10, Central Pennsylvania Figure Skating Club

Charlie White: I don’t know if I skated every day, but close. I was on the ice maybe four days a week for 45 minutes freestyle and 45 minutes dance. Hockey was two to three times a week, between practice and games.

“You and Meryl have been partners since you were young children and clearly have had a very successful partnership. What would you say has been most important in building and maintaining that collaboration?” – Lily Delle-Levine, 16, Red Rose Figure Skating Club

Charlie White: I think just general respect for one another. We started skating together when we were 8 and 9, and we had no idea what we were getting into when we started ice dancing. We had a lot of success because we both worked hard, the work ethic was there. And I think it’s important when you have a close partnership with anyone that you be on the same page as far as short term goals and eventually long term goals. It’s important just to be able to relate to one another in terms of what is hard work, what is the level of sacrifice we’re willing to put in. If you can’t agree on that, it’s difficult to move forward.  Obviously, being able to exist respectfully, that’s one of the things I’ve learned from a long-term partnership. At the end of the day, you are trying to get to the same place. Even if there are disagreements, you understand that it’s because you both care, and it’s easy to work past that and find a solution that’s beneficial to everyone.

“What was the hardest thing to give up to train exclusively?” – Cathryn McCaffrey, 12, White Rose Figure Skating Club

Charlie White: I think for me it was tough because I loved doing so many things. A lot of time, I had to miss a hockey tournament for figure skating or miss figure skating practice for a hockey game. I had a great groups of friends at the rink and at home. I didn’t have as many sleepovers or get-togethers because of my schedule, and I guess I just understood that was part of it. I never thought, “Ah, dang it.” I think I just came to terms with it. But for me, just knowing that in doing so many things, ultimately, I had to let people down at points, that was disappointing for me. As part of a hockey team, I felt bad if I had to miss a games for a competition. Or if I had to miss practice with Meryl or had to cancel on my coach—the conflict was difficult, but it allowed me to appreciate what was I doing, and drove me to continue, even with the time crunch.

How old were you when you started skating and how many medals have you won? – Nolan Smith, 6, Sikumi Figure Skating Club

Charlie White: I started figure skating and playing hockey when I was 5.

Fortunately, when you have a really long career, you have the opportunity to win lots of medals. I think I’m proudest that I’ve been able to win three Olympic medals — one in every color — two World Championships and two World silver medals. What we took away and appreciated were the moments of growth and experiences, especially being able to travel and learn about ourselves, maybe even more so than all the medals that we’ve won.

Where is your favorite place to be or things to do when you are not on the ice? – Rayann Purdy, age 8, Sikumi Figure Skating Club

Charlie White: My favorite thing to do now is enjoy being at home. So much of our skating takes us around the world—we have exhibitions in Japan, I’ve just been to Switzerland, I’ll be going to Finland to do commentary on the World Championships. I love traveling, it’s one of the perks of being an international athlete. However, I’ve been married now for two years, I have two amazing dogs, and I really love being home. We have a great little river near us and there’s a park. The peace of being at home and being with my family is probably my favorite thing.

Final question from our two hockey skaters, Jonathan and Nolan: “Who is your favorite hockey team and do you still play hockey?

Charlie White: I’m from Detroit, so the Detroit Red Wings. I still do get to play hockey, but not as often as I like. You can really play hockey for your whole life. Wherever life takes you, you can always take hockey with you.

See Charlie and Meryl and the rest of the Stars on Ice cast this May at the Giant Center in Hershey!

2017 Stars on Ice
Giant Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Tickets available online




9 reasons kids should learn to ice skate

My kids ice skate. A lot. Even my middle child, who doesn’t ice skate, still manages to ice skate. I don’t know how that works out, but it’s true.

When I was growing up, I skated every once in a while, mostly on the few days when my parents were certain the ice over the pond wasn’t going to give way and send me into an icy fish bath.

Central Pennsylvania is chock full of ponds and lakes that freeze over in the winter. But we’re also home to eight ice rinks, some with multiple sheets of ice. If you count skating rinks in Sunbury and State College, that makes 10 indoor ice surfaces. Eleven, 12, 13 and beyond if you trek just across the Maryland border or head toward Philly and Pittsburgh.

For a state that isn’t Minnesota, we’re lousy with ice.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: ice skating, falling, head injuries and broken bones. Fair enough.

But try to consider this as well: bike helmet, skating lessons and access to a winter’s worth of “cabin fever” day activities.

Let me try to convince you a bit further. Here are nine great reasons kids should learn how to ice skate:

1. Ice skating requires paying attention.

Even the most action-packed, ants-in-their-pants kids will summon their powers of extreme focus when ice skating. Losing focus while on the ice is directly correlated with ending up on your bottom.

In skating lessons, the instructor will teach a child how to fall correctly and help bypass serious injury. But if you talk to folks who have been skating all their lives, they’ll tell you that focus is always required while on the ice. Like meditation, ice skating forces you to ignore all the distracting mumbo jumbo running through your brain. Both kids and adults could use an hour or two of “no mumbo jumbo” each week.

2. No matter the weather, ice skating rinks are always open.

Hazy, hot and 99 percent humidity? The skating rink is cooler than your pool. Ten below zero and too cold for polar bears? The skating rink is going to feel like a sauna.

In fact, the only two activities that completely wear out my kids are swimming and skating. Get a pool pass, get a skate pass, and your children will be happily exhausted.

3. Kids who can’t run fast can still learn to skate fast.

Skating may look like running on ice, but ice skating uses leg muscles in different ways than running does. Skating also requires less effort to get the “wind in your hair” feeling, although rounding the rink over the course of an hour-long public ice session can still be a great cardiac workout.

And because skating is a side-to-side motion instead of the up-and-down of running, joint impact is reduced. (Note: If you get to the point of working on your triple axel jump a few times a week, the “easy on the joints” discussion changes a bit. But that’s a conversation for down the road — or down the ice rink.)


4. Kids of all body types can feel graceful, artistic and athletic on the ice.

After mastering the basics, kids can learn to spin, spiral and dance on ice. Yes, Olympic-level skaters are generally lean and small. But kids of all ages, heights and weights can learn to perform the iconic layback spin of Peggy Fleming, practice the fancy footwork of Bobby Orr (shoutout to hockey players!) and hone the showmanship of Scott Hamilton.

5. Ice skating teaches kids to get up after falling. And to get up again. And again.

Persistence is a skill kids will carry off the ice and into the classroom. Check out U.S. Figure Skating’s WeGetUp site for an inspirational boost via ice skating.

6. Even little kids can learn to skate with confidence.

And younger children are already close to the ground, so falling doesn’t freak them out as much. By 3 years old, most kids can take group lessons and learn to skate.

7. As a sport, ice skating offers myriad avenues for true “rec league” competition.

Local ice hockey leagues all promote recreational-level playing opportunities for both kids and adults. USA Hockey, the organization that oversees amateur hockey, does a great job of keeping youth hockey’s focus on skill development and having fun. Trust me, no recreational hockey coach, parent or team is going to be disappointed if your child isn’t Wayne Gretzky. Rec league teams are very welcoming.

U.S. Figure Skating and the Ice Skating Institute both sponsor competitions in singles skating, ice dance, synchronized skating and theater-on-ice. In both recreational and club competitions, the focus is on building skills and having fun while setting and working toward personal goals.

A very, very small percentage of kids will go to the Olympics or play in the NHL. However, millions of kids and adults participate in various levels and types of ice sports competition, all free from Olympic-level pressure.

8. As a teen hangout, ice rinks deter many kinds of unwanted behaviors.

I can’t vouch for what happens off the ice. But for teens who do make the ice rink a Friday-night hangout, I can confidently bear witness to the fact that shenanigans are limited when you’re balancing on a three-sixteenths-inch blade.

9. Ice skating is an activity that kids can participate in through adulthood.

Maybe grownup skaters wear more padding to protect against falls. Maybe they don’t skate as fast, and perhaps older adults — who have work in the morning and kids to take care of — are more conservative with body contact during “beer league” hockey games.

But ice skating is truly a lifelong sport that can be enjoyed with relative safety well into what are normally the hip-replacement years.

Have I convinced you to seek out ice skating lessons? Check out Learn to Skate USA for a rink near you. Great! Have fun and skate great!

 Suburban Resistance is a weekly blog by Josette Plank. Read more every Wednesday at CentralPennParent.com.