Filed under: Teens
Girls might be at greater risk of concussion—also known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI)—than boys, so it’s important to recognize their symptoms and seek medical help. Female high school and college athletes report more concussion symptoms than their male counterparts. In addition, their reported symptoms are more severe and last longer than what boys experience.
In sports, a concussion can happen from hitting another player, ball, or surface with your head. It causes a disturbance in brain functioning and can lead to a number of symptoms, including headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, and sensitivity to light or noise. In addition, you might feel foggy, have difficulty concentrating or remembering things, or feel confused about recent events. You also might feel irritable, sad, or nervous. While concussions can happen in any sport, they’re most likely to occur in football, soccer, rugby, basketball, and hockey.
It’s not clear why girls experience more concussions than boys. Girls are more likely to report symptoms, whereas boys tend to keep their concerns to themselves. So it might be the case that boys and girls are concussed at the same rates, but girls report their injuries more often. Hormone levels and blood flow differences in the sexes also might contribute to the rates of concussion among girls. For girls who have entered puberty, hormonal changes experienced along with their menstrual cycles might impact the severity of concussion symptoms. It takes longer for a girl to be symptom free after her concussion, and that might be due in part to where she is in her menstrual cycle.
If you have a daughter, take steps to prevent her from experiencing a concussion. If she is diagnosed with an mTBI, she’ll need “brain rest” to recover. She also should limit reading, homework, and screen time. And consult with her doctor to make sure that concussion symptoms resolve and she’s medically cleared before she returns to play her sport.
Energy drinks can actually pose health risks to adolescents, yet approximately 30% of teens consume them on a regular basis. The risks include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, anxiety, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, dehydration, and even death. In addition, teens who consume energy drinks are also more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as drinking more sugar-sweetened beverages, smoking cigarettes, and using drugs and alcohol.
Many of the negative effects associated with energy drinks are due to the large amounts of stimulants in these beverages. Their caffeine content can range from 50 to more than 300 mg per can or bottle. However, the amount of caffeine teens consume from energy drinks is trending upwards, in part due to heavy marketing with celebrity athletes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teens consume no more than 100 mg of caffeine per day (equal to about 2 cans of caffeine-containing soda or one 8 oz. cup of coffee) and avoid energy drinks altogether. They provide no nutritional benefit.
Parents: Be sure to talk to your teens about the potential problems associated with energy drinks, and make sure they don’t confuse them with sports drinks, which teens should use only when needed.
School’s back in session, and kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) struggle with focus, hyperactivity, and schedules. It’s especially important for them to keep a consistent routine, limit screen time, and get a good night’s sleep.
Regular routines are important for all kids, especially those with ADHD because they’re more likely to get distracted. And some might have a harder time completing their tasks. A consistent routine helps them stay on track. Tip: Hang a “daily routine” chart on your refrigerator. Make sure it includes tasks your child must complete in the morning—such as brushing teeth and hair, washing his or her face, and changing clothes—before heading out the door. Add bedtime tasks such as packing his or her lunch and backpack to the chart too. Using the chart as a guide to repeat the same behaviors every day can help your child stick to successful morning and evening routines.
Children and teens with ADHD tend to spend more time in front of screens than other kids. Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation and limit your child’s screen time to 1–2 hours daily. And set up a “screen-free zone” in your house—where everyone agrees to avoid TVs, cell phones, tablets, game consoles, and laptops. Encourage your kids to move more instead: They can head outdoors or play team sports. Aerobic exercise also can help reduce inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
A bedtime routine can help kids with ADHD improve their sleeping patterns too. Make sure to establish and maintain a set bedtime. And consider removing all media and screens from your child’s bedroom. Kids also should avoid consuming caffeine before heading off to dreamland.
There’s an obesity epidemic in this country, and it’s not just affecting adults. Childhood obesity impacts more than 23 million children and teenagers in the U.S., putting them at risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol.
More recently, the U.S. military has taken action because it considers childhood obesity a threat to our national security. Many young adults aren’t fit to fight. Now’s the time to instill healthy exercise habits in your kids to help them become healthy adults.
Regular exercise can build strong muscles and bones and promote overall health. It’s especially important that children exercise and learn healthy habits early on. Exercise also can boost kids’ self-esteem, improve sleep, and stimulate learning in school.
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, including:
- Aerobic exercise for most of the 60 minutes. On most days, this can include either vigorous-intensity activities (such as running, swimming, and jumping rope) or moderate-intensity activities (such as walking or skateboarding). Make sure to include some vigorous-intensity exercise at least 3 days each week. Check out Let’s Move! for ideas on how to get active as a family.
- Muscle-strengthening activities. These can include playing tug-of-war, exercising with resistance bands, or climbing on playground equipment. Strengthening exercises should be done at least 3 times a week.
- Bone-strengthening (impact) activities. These can include running, jumping rope, basketball, tennis, and hopscotch. Impact activities, which strengthen bones and promote healthy growth, also should be done at least 3 times a week.
Learn more about DoD's efforts to help keep your kids active and healthy. Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page for resources and tips to help raise awareness about National Childhood Obesity Month too. And visit HPRC’s Staying Active section for ideas on how to boost your family’s fitness.
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can effectively prevent some sexually-transmitted infections that cause genital warts and certain cancers in men and women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine HPV vaccinations for kids ages 11–12, but those as young as 9 also can be vaccinated. The vaccine is most effective for those who receive the full 3-dose series.
HPV, the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the U.S., can develop into certain forms of cancer. It’s estimated there are 79 million HPV-infected individuals and another 14 million new HPV infections annually. In most cases, the symptom-free virus goes away on its own. However, for unknown reasons, HPV infection can persist, causing cervical cancer and other vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancers. It’s also linked to cancers of the tonsils and tongue.
In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine that protects against the 4 most harmful strains of HPV. Studies show the HPV vaccine works. It prevents genital warts, some precancers, and cervical and other cancers associated with these harmful strains. Mandatory HPV-cancer prevention vaccination programs have resulted in lower rates of HPV-related diseases and cancers in other countries too.
While many teens and adults are open to their health care providers’ recommendations for getting vaccinated, low immunization rates still exist. As more kids and adults get vaccinated, the rate of HPV-related cancers is expected to drop. Since the HPV vaccine is relatively new, it’s also recommended that females (ages 13–26) and males (ages 13–21) who haven’t been previously vaccinated “catch up” and get protected.
Since TriCare coverage includes most types of the HPV vaccine, contact your kids’ health care provider (or your own, if you’re considering getting vaccinated) to discuss options. For more information, read the CDC’s recommendations for vaccinating your teen or pre-teen. And visit the National Cancer Institute’s HPV Vaccines page.
School still might be out for some, but many teen athletes are already busy with fall sports practices. And knowing what and when to eat and drink can help them be on top of their game. Your teen’s schedule might seem more like a pro athlete’s workout schedule with two-a-days, strength-training programs, and speed training. However, these are often building blocks of teen athletes’ training for sports. Fueling the Adolescent Athlete contains useful information on how they can fuel their bodies before, during, and after practice.
Fueling comes in two forms: what teen athletes eat to provide energy and what they drink to help stay hydrated. Eating nutrient-packed meals and snacks before, after, and even during practices and games is essential for optimal performance. The right balance of carbohydrates and protein work together to fuel and build muscles.
Staying hydrated goes hand in hand with peak performance. It’s often difficult for adolescent athletes to stay hydrated in heat and humidity, but drinking regularly and keeping an eye on their urine color can be helpful.
For more adolescent and family nutrition information, check out HPRC’s Family Nutrition section.
More teen driving accidents happen during the summer because school is out and teens are driving more—and some are driving while distracted. If the summer sun’s shining and your teen’s asking for the car keys, hand them over cautiously. And do this only after demonstrating safe driving and discussing the danger of driving while distracted.
During the summer months, it’s estimated that 10 people will die each day as a result of accidents involving teen drivers. Distracted driving often leads to crashes. This is especially true for teens distracted by their cell phones, passengers, and other things inside their cars. Anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or even mind away from driving is a distraction: Texting and using a cell phone often involves all three.
Distractions impair teens’ driving performance (regardless of their attention spans), reduce safe driving practices, and disrupt traffic flow. If your teen’s friends text and drive—and don’t see a problem with it—your teen is likely to think it’s acceptable and normal.
Discussing the dangers of distracted driving with your teen is an important first step towards prevention. And demonstrating safe, distraction-free driving yourself is key. Teens tend to think their parents are distracted while driving, sometimes more than parents realize.
As a parent, make sure to wear your seat belt, put away your phone, and concentrate on the road. Set driving rules for your teen too (for example, silencing his or her cell phone and putting it away when driving). Review the rules often, and enforce consequences when they’re broken. And ask your teen to sign the pledge, promising to be a safe, distraction-free driver.
Most dietary supplement products are marketed for adults 18 and older and typically carry a warning on the label against use by those under 18. That’s because there has been little to no reliable research done on the use of dietary supplements—especially those marketed for bodybuilding and performance enhancement—by people under the age of 18. As such, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) strongly opposes the use of dietary supplements by high school athletes to gain a competitive advantage.
Whether you’re a teen athlete, parent, coach, or healthcare provider, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Teens: Achieving your athletic goals means hard work. Taking shortcuts with dietary supplements can be harmful to your health and have a negative effect on your future athletic ambitions. Watch OPSS’s video below to learn about one college athlete’s experience.
Parents and coaches: Talk often with your athletes about dietary supplements, and encourage them to eat whole foods to fuel their bodies. Download HPRC’s “Fueling the adolescent athlete,” which has helpful suggestions for hydrating and for eating between workouts.
Healthcare providers: Use the OPSS Guidelines to ask about supplement use as part of taking a comprehensive dietary supplement history. Counsel athletes and their parents about the risks involved with using dietary supplements and other performance-enhancing substances. Promote proper nutrition, training, and rest to improve performance.
Remember, teens (and adults) can get all the nutrients their bodies need by eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Teens and adults don’t need supplements unless a doctor determines it’s needed to treat deficiency of a particular nutrient.
It’s a fact: Teens need more sleep than adults. While most adults require a minimum of 7–8 hours of shut-eye, teens need 9 or more hours. (Newborns sleep 16–18 hours, preschoolers 11–12 hours, and school-age kids 10+ hours.)
However, most teens tend to sleep only 7.4 hours on school nights. Middle- and high-school students also have different sleep cycles from adults, making it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. most nights. Homework, exams, sports, and other extracurriculars—even changes such as daylight savings time—can also throw your teen’s snooze schedule off-kilter. Does your teen crave screen time late at night? Blue light from computers, tablets, and cell phones can throw off their sleep cycles too. Plus, tuning into a recent text or social media post can get the brain going, which can also make it hard to fall asleep.
Teens’ body clocks can cause them to go to bed late and sleep late in the morning. Added to this, early school start times make it difficult for teens to get enough sleep. If possible, ask your local school officials about later start times, or consider finding schools with later start times. Students who attend schools that start later have:
- More weeknight sleep
- Less daytime sleepiness
- Fewer concentration problems
- Better attendance
- Improved academic performance
- Fewer car accidents
Children and teens face a lot of challenges these days, but exercise can help, even in such seemingly unrelated situations as bullying, a form of peer aggression. Bullying recently has come to the forefront as a public health concern. While the best solution is to prevent it, there are ways to cope and manage the effects of being bullied (such as depression, sadness, and decreased self-worth). Exercise can serve as a buffer against effects of being bullied. Bullied teens who regularly exercise at least 60 minutes a day, 4 days a week, are less likely to experience sadness or hopelessness. That’s important when you also consider that these feelings sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts among teens. Encouraging your child to participate in some kind of physical activity can help him or her conquer social obstacles while building good habits for a healthy adulthood. By also making physical activity a family matter, you can lead by example. Learn more about how to prevent bullying and consult a healthcare professional and a school counselor if you’re concerned that your child might be a victim of bullying.