One of the biggest issues becomes managing and properly treating a concussion if a child is hurt.
But it's not just parents and coaches that need to watch for concussion symptoms. Young athletes themselves need to understand the dangers of hiding potential head injuries from the adults in their lives.
In November, Michelle Roque-Paskow was hit in the jaw while playing in a soccer match for North Broward Prep. After the game, the senior did some research on concussions and suspected she could have suffered one.
Fear of losing her spot in the lineup and letting her teammates down kept her quiet. A few weeks later, another blow to the head left her dizzy. Coaches pulled her from the game and it was then Roque-Paskow spoke up about her previous injury.
"I didn't tell anyone because I didn't want to miss any games, and that ended up being worse because I got elbowed under the eye in another game and I felt horrible," Roque-Paskow said. "Light bothered me. Noise bothered me. I was really dizzy and I had a bad memory. I never knew how serious concussions were. I didn't think they were a big deal, but once you have one, it can really open your eyes to how sensitive your brain is."
Roque-Paskow came back in the spring to play flag football and led her team to the state semifinals. But she says her future play will be intramurals in college with a greater understanding of head injuries.
Elizabeth Roque, her mom, said she was nervous about letting her daughter play flag football, but doctors cleared Michelle after a four-month recovery. That clearance, combined with the family's newly acquired knowledge about head injuries, helped make Michelle's return to play easier.
"These kids want to be the best of the best, and at 17, 18 years old, they think they're invincible. But they're not always given all the information they need to have," Roque said.
Many of South Florida's concussion experts, such as Hotz and Stephen Russo, the director of Sport Psychology Sports Medicine Clinic at Nova Southeastern, say education has become one of their biggest goals.
Russo believes the benefits of sports — exercise, activity and teamwork — outweigh the negatives of injury, as long parents and athletes are educated about head injuries.
"I just think each kid, each parent, each family needs to go into the process with their eyes open and know that if an injury occurs, there are ways to manage that injury," Russo said. "You don't see people taking their kids out of sports because of ACL injuries, and ACL injuries can be as career-ending as concussions."
Ian Crosbie, a football player at West Broward High, learned about head injuries firsthand when he experienced the effects of a concussion after taking a hit in a game against Miramar High last year.
Coaches immediately rushed to his aid, but as Crosbie came off the field, he was unsure where he was and what was happening around him. A day later, doctors told him he had a concussion. He was sidelined for three weeks and dealt with a number of symptoms, including headaches, slowed reaction time and difficulty concentrating.
He still doesn't remember much about the game, but he says he doesn't plan to quit football. He does, however, know what to do if he's injured in the future.
"I think my teammates get it, but there will always be some kids that I don't think will speak up," Crosbie said. "But you have to tell, every time. You have to think of your future."
Know your symptoms