Contrary to how it's depicted in cartoons, a blow to the head is a serious occurrence with possibly long-lasting effects. Concussions can cause damage to the soft tissue of the brain. And children's brains are even more susceptible to traumatic brain injuries because their heads are disproportionally large compared with the rest of their bodies.

Concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) caused by blows to the head or body are common among young athletes, especially those playing contact sports. About 1 million children each year suffer concussions, according to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, and more than 30,000 incur long-term disabilities as a result of traumatic brain injuries.

With football season in full swing — both professionally and scholastically throughout the country — TBI is taking center stage. Prevention is key, says Dr. Chris Rackley, a pediatric neuropsychologist at Blythedale Children's Hospital. Prompt recognition of a concussion or brain injury by parents, teammates, coaches, school nurses, and/or physicians is essential in preventing a more serious brain injury, he says. Under Connecticut law, a coach should not send a player back into a game after a player shows symptoms of a concussion or is determined to have suffered a concussion. But how can one determine exactly what those symptoms are?

Blythedale Children's Hospital in Valhalla, N.Y., will host its first-ever Concussion & Traumatic Brain Injury Town Hall, bringing together student athletes, coaches, parents and members of its Traumatic Brain Injury Team. The town hall will take place Tuesday, Sept. 20, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Blythedale Children's Hospital, 95 Bradhurst Ave., Valhalla.

Dorsey Levens will also be a part of the discussion. Levens is a former Green Bay Packer football player and producer of the upcoming documentary "Bell Rung: An Alarming Portrait of Professional Football," which looks at concussions among NFL players.

"Concussions are often not recognized for a variety of reasons, especially in children and adolescents. As our understanding of the causes and consequences of concussions increases, we can better manage and treat these injuries," says Rackley. "The Concussion Town Hall Meeting at Blythedale Children's Hospital aims to provide education regarding what a concussion is and what parents, coaches, school personnel and the youths themselves can do to identify and manage this condition."

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