Concussions among young athletes on the rise

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's been 11 weeks since Anna Penland set foot on a basketball court. The sport she played for most of her life is now off limits.

"Me and an opponent were both going for a ball and she just knocked me down and I guess I landed on my head," Anna said.

Penland guesses because she can't remember what happened that night. It wouldn't be until after the game that she started showing symptoms.

"We went to the doctor a few days later and realized how serious it was," Anna said.

Anna's mom, Rebecca, would learn her daughter had suffered a long-term concussion.

For 5 weeks, Anna was out of school in a dark living room because of light sensitivity. She was told to avoid the use of electronic devices that could stimulate her brain.

"We know that youth are much more vulnerable to traumatic brain injury than adults," Dr. Craig Burnworth said.

Burnworth says TBI awareness has exploded in the past few years, but he says ignorance on the part of some coaches and parents is still an issue.

"Some people get so invested in their sports that they sometimes lose perspective that this is a brain injury," Burnworth said.

Brain injuries like the one Anna suffered can be fatal if an athlete who suffers a concussion heads back into the game.

"My headaches are terrible and haven't gone away," Anna said. "They've been constant since it happened."

Despite that, Anna should eventually make a full recovery, but it's an unlikely she'll return to the court.

Meanwhile, Anna's mom has some advice to give to parents of other athletic children.

"My advice to parents would be to take it seriously," Rebecca said. "We had no idea it'd turn into this situation, but you can never be too careful."

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