Football Helmets and Concussions

Football HelmetsIf you’re a parent of a football player, you may have seen claims by equipment manufacturers that their products are designed to better protect young athletes from concussions. And, because you want the best products for keeping your kids safe, it’s understandable if you’d be persuaded to purchase a particular brand based on the claims. But is there truth behind the marketing?

Alison Brooks, MD, MPH, specializes in pediatric sports medicine. For the last two years, Dr. Brooks and UW sports medicine researcher Tim McGuine have been working with high school football players and schools from around Wisconsin to determine whether certain football helmets actually do reduce the risk of concussion in high school athletes. And the results may surprise you.

Among their findings was that there was no difference in the rate of sports-related concussions based on the brand, age or recondition status of the helmet the players used.

The rate of sports related concussions was nearly seven times higher during competition than during practice, and four times higher during full-contact practice compared to practice.

And, players who experienced a sports related concussion during the previous 12 months were almost twice as likely to sustain another one compared to players who never experienced one.

So what can you do as a parent?

Educate yourself about the risks and symptoms of concussions. Your school or club should have provided you and your athletes with information about the signs and symptoms.

Talk with your child about the symptoms. A headache, fatigue and problems concentrating can all be symptoms. The coaches and trainers will likely cover this information as well, but sometimes kids may not be honest with how they’re feeling in hopes of getting back to playing sooner.

Consider ImPACT concussion management, a computer-based program that helps establish a baseline so if an injury does occur, physicians are able to compare pre-injury and post-injury test results.

Realize that a specific brand of helmet will not make a difference in protecting your child. But, ensuring that the helmet used fits properly and is well maintained are two important steps you can take.

Consider UW Health’s Sports Concussion Rehabilitation Program for athletes with prolonged concussion symptoms and be sure to talk with your physician if you have any questions or concerns.

Posted in Teens | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Stay Hydrated with Fruit Infused Water (Giveaway)

The body is about three-quarters water but the heat of the summer months can dehydrate the body very quickly. Symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, light-headedness, dry lips, mouth and skin, limited urination, and thirst.

Practice good hydration throughout the summer by:

  • Make water your number one beverage.
  • Carry a water bottle with you.
  • Drink up 8 ounces of water at every meal and snack.
  • Enjoy at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables everyday, which are also a great source of water.
  • Consume caffeinated beverages in moderation. Coffee, black teas, dark soda pop and energy drinks generally contain caffeine.
  • Perform a urine check. Try to keep your urine looking like lemonade or lighter. If it looks like apple juice, take a break and drink up.
  • Drink before you are thirsty. The sign of thirst, such as a parched mouth, means the body is well on its way to dehydration.

August Recipe: Fruit Infused Water


  • 6 cups cold filtered water
  • 4 caffeine-free herbal berry tea bags
  • 2 sprigs mint leaves
  • 24 frozen whole strawberries
  • 24 ice cubes

Pour water into a large clear glass pitcher or jar.

Add the tea bags and mint.

Cover with a small dishtowel, large enough to keep debris and bugs out.

Place the tea in direct sunlight for 4 to 5 hours.

Remove the tea bags and mint leaves.

Add the berries and ice to the pitcher and chill prior to service.

Serve cold.

Smiling Sun

Enter this week’s giveaway:

Do you prefer your water fruit infused, with a slice of lemon or with bubbles in it? Leave a comment telling us your favorite way to drink water.
Prize: 1 $10 Woodman’s gift card and a water bottle.
Rules: Giveaway closes on Sunday, August 24, 2014 at 11pm CST. Open to Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois residents only. One entry per email address is permitted. The winner will be selected using and announced on the following Monday as an update to this post. Winner will be notified via email and asked to provide a mailing address to receive the prize; if the winner does not respond within 7 days, the winner forfeits the prize and another winner will be selected. Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get new posts delivered to your inbox as soon as they’re posted.

Stay Hydrated with Fruit Infused Water (Giveaway)
About Cassie Vanderwall, MS, RD, CD, CDE, CPT
Cassie Vanderwall is a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer and certified diabetes educator at the UW Health Pediatric Fitness Clinic and Pediatric Diabetes Clinic. Cassie is passionate about empowering families by equipping them with the tools they need to achieve a healthier life.

View all posts by Cassie Vanderwall, MS, RD, CD, CDE, CPT
Posted in Nutrition | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Five Tips for the Transition to High School

Middle School to High School TransistionWhen I was asked to write a blog about the difficult transition into high school and I thought, “Interesting topic, but is it really necessary to discuss?” Then I had a 14 year old patient this week whose main concern was this: “How am I going to survive high school?” A mix of pop culture and passed down stories from well-meaning family members had terrified this soon-to-be 9th grader. She had heard that the older high school boys are preying on the “fresh meat” and that fights are breaking out in the halls on a daily basis. She also heard about the prevalence of weapons in school and wondered how she can protect herself. Should she carry pepper spray in her backpack? (This was her actual question to me and my heart broke).

It is true, whether coming from a middle school (grades 6-8) or a junior high school (grades 7-9), there are many things about high school that are different from the old school environment. High school usually means bigger building, larger student body, and more choices for classes. Where many middle schools have students housed in “teams” where the student has the same group of classmates in a set of classes, in high school there may be students from all different grade levels in the same class. There are positive experiences, like expanding opportunities for extracurricular involvement and increasing freedom, such as open campus lunches or study halls. There are also negative experiences, like increased intensity of school work and an overall more competitive environment in classes and sports. Throw in well documented risk taking behaviors that occur during this age, and it’s no wonder that a lot of new high schoolers are a little freaked out.

Do not despair! There are ways to help your teen make a smooth transition into high school:

  1. Set a routine, including time for homework and time for relaxing. A routine will help your teen feel more organized and less overwhelmed.
  2. Make sure your teen is getting adequate sleep and eating 3 meals daily. Family meals are a great time to catch up on the goings-on of your teen, not to mention a protective factor to the development of eating disorders (which tend to appear during times of stress and transition).
  3. Open the lines of communication so that they feel comfortable talking with you. Do frequent check-ins and make sure your teen knows that you are available to listen to whatever bothers them, without judgment.
  4. Know your child’s friends. It’s ok to be a little (or a lot) leery of the upperclassmen who want to have relationships with the underclassmen, either romantic or platonic. Discuss methods of dealing with peer pressure and again, remind your teen that he/she can come to you with any questions or concerns.
  5. Pay attention to any changes in your teen’s behavior. If there are frequent absences, decline in grades, or frequent physical complaints with no medical diagnosis, it may be a sign of something more serious, like anxiety, depression, bullying, or substance use. If there is any concern about changes in your teen’s behavior, contact his or her healthcare provider.

Transitioning to high school is a complex rite of passage that we all had to endure, and it can be very stressful. Fortunately, with a little guidance and compassion, the transition can be less traumatic and your teen will discover that high school isn’t all that scary.

Five Tips for the Transition to High School
About Paula Cody, MD, MPH
Dr. Paula Cody is fellowship trained in adolescent medicine and is a pediatrician at the UW Health John Stephenson Teenage and Young Adult Clinic.

View all posts by Paula Cody, MD, MPH
Posted in Teens | Tagged , , , ,

Making the Transition Back to School (Giveaway)

Transitioning Back to School

It seems like all school year long kids can’t wait for summer break. And just as soon as the family really starts to enjoy it, it’s August and time to start making the transition back.

Aside from the disappointment of vacation coming to an end, the start of school can be a source of anxiety for many kids as they worry about the unpredictable – who will be in their class, who will they have for teachers, if the work will be too hard for them. And this is especially true for kids who may be moving to new schools with the transition from kindergarten to first grade, elementary to middle school, or middle to high school. But there are ways parents can help.

Here are some suggestions to help make the transition a little easier.

Keep Routine Constant

Do you have questions about back to school anxiety? Tune in to hear more from Dr. Slattery on the Larry Meiller show this Thursday, August 14th from 11-11:45am.

If you haven’t been keeping to a routine throughout the summer, consider starting in August. Routine is important for kids as it provides an anchor when other things may be in flux. So while there may be uncertainty about teachers and classmates, they will have the comfort of predictability at home. Sleep schedules often shift in summer to staying up late and sleeping in – start shifting back to a school day sleep schedule in August and keep the bedtime and wake up times consistent. Getting enough sleep is one of the most important ways to help you child navigate the next day. Keeping mealtimes as consistent as possible can help too, and is a good time to talk with your child about the day.

Talk With Them

If they’re starting to talk about school, engage them in conversation.  Ask them what their worries are, and develop a plan about how to deal with things that might come up, like what to do if they can’t find their classroom or locker. Talk about school in a positive way and focus on the good things. Consider reflecting on positives they didn’t expect during the previous school year as a way of setting the stage for the positive experiences they may have during the upcoming year.

Tour the School

Many schools offer times for kids to come with their parents to tour the school and meet the teachers. Make it a priority for your family. And if your child’s school doesn’t, consider asking.

A common fear for kids, particularly as they enter higher grades, is being able to find and open their locker, locate their classroom, and even find the restrooms. Doing a dry run can help. If they have their schedule already, you could even walk through the day going from class to class so they can become familiar with the location in the school. Younger kids can see their desk and explore their classroom so they know what it will be like before they start.

Meeting the teacher is also a great way to provide familiarity for their first day, so they know who they are and what to expect. It’s also helpful for kids to see other kids going through the same steps of finding their way in the school to assure them they’re not the only one checking things out.

Drive by the school a few times before the start of classes to get used to the building and neighborhood. For younger kids, consider playing on the school playground a few times for fun. Think about scheduling a playdate with a classmate at the playground or elsewhere, to keep the social part of school positive too.

Going to school before the year starts, talking about what to expect, and creating a sense of routine are all ways to provide kids with a source of comfort that can ease their minds and help them get their year off to a great start.

Smiling Sun

Enter this week’s giveaway

Leave a comment on telling us how you prepare your kids to back to school.
Prize: 1 $10 Target gift card
Rules: Giveaway closes on Sunday, August 17, 2014 at 11pm CST. Open to Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois residents only. One entry per email address is permitted. The winner will be selected using and announced on the following Monday as an update to this post. Winner will be notified via email and asked to provide a mailing address to receive the prize; if the winner does not respond within 7 days, the winner forfeits the prize and another winner will be selected. Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get new posts delivered to your inbox as soon as they’re posted.

Making the Transition Back to School (Giveaway)
About Marcia Slattery, MD
Dr. Slattery is a UW Health child and adolescent psychiatrist, and Director of the UW Anxiety Disorders Program.

View all posts by Marcia Slattery, MD
Posted in Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Mindfulness Exercises for Back to School (Giveaway)

Back to School MindfulnessEven though several weeks of summer break are left, it’s hard not to think about the impending arrival of the school year. For many kids, that can be a source of anxiety – not knowing what to expect, new teachers, perhaps even a new school building, new routines – and even perhaps sadness that the fun, leisurely days of summer are coming to a close. Amidst the thoughts and worries, it can be easy to lose sight of the present moment. By taking a few moments to focus on the here and now, kids can help ease any anxiety they may be experiencing and even learn to savor those few remaining days of summer play.

Research shows that mindfulness is good for our health, both physical and mental. And while some may envision a practice of sitting, eyes closed for long periods of time trying to clear one’s thoughts, for children and teens it’s a bit different. It’s not about developing a meditation practice. Instead, it’s really about pressing the “pause button” momentarily – focusing attention to the present moment and noticing what’s happening right now, both inside us and around us. Feeling the grass between our toes, the swirl of emotion in our chest, the playful smile of a family member. Following are a few exercises families can do together any time, but might be particularly useful as kids make the transition from summer to school.

Summer Gratitude
As summer vacation winds down, take time to experience gratitude for what the summer offered: the longer days of sunshine, the chance to enjoy the outdoors, and the time for fun with friends or family. During a meal-time conversation, encourage each family member to identify their most favorite memory of summer, focusing on the sense of joy or happiness associated with that experience – the feel of the sand on the beach, the taste of strawberries from the Farmer’s Market, the feeling of riding the roller coaster, going on a bike ride, watching fireflies together after dark. Recollecting positive experiences like these can help kids to notice other positive experiences that may occur in the future. The sense of joy or happiness that arises could serve as a helpful anchor to come back to when the pressure of transitioning back to school seems challenging.

Setting Intentions
This exercise is to help focus our energies on the things we value. Whether it’s setting an intention for the whole fall, for a month, for the first week of school, or even just for the day – it’s about taking the time to identify something that is meaningful. For kids, an intention might be to meet a new friend, try a new activity, work on organization skills, or even just to notice a moment that makes them smile or laugh.

Making Time for Rest
Sufficient rest is important for all of us, especially when dealing with a new or stressful situation. At least two weeks before school starts, start transitioning to earlier bed times and earlier wake times so by the time school starts, everyone is feeling rested (this is true for parents too – the more rested you are, the easier it is to help your children deal with any fears or anxieties). If kids are having a difficult time quieting their minds and getting to sleep at night, try using an audio-guided mindfulness practice to aid in calming their mind and relaxing their body. Many children find the body scan practice useful. When looking for an audio practice, keep in mind that shorter lengths of time and simple vocabulary are best, especially for younger kids. For those with mobile devices, there is an app call Smiling Mind where you can find a practice based on a child’s age. The Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA also has free guided meditations available on their website.

Mindful Movement
Toward the end of summer break and particularly during the first days of the new school year, make time as a family to go for a walk or bike ride, go to the park, or play an active game. On rainy days hold a dance party in the living room. Physical movement can help release energy or tension being held in the body and can help calm children.

Mindful Breath
For many families, the morning routine can be hectic as everyone is getting dressed, fed and ready to go. Having that sense of being rushed can add to anxieties kids may already be feeling about the start of school. On the first day of school, before walking out of the house, make time to share a brief breath awareness practice. Stand tall, take 3 full breaths, and focus on the sensations of the inhale and exhale each time. Finish by bringing a smile to your face. Remind kids that they can do this throughout their school day as well, whenever they need.

Inviting a Compassionate View
A brief compassion practice can also be helpful. While kids are feeling anxious, it can help to talk about how other people may be feeling as well. Is the teacher feeling anxious as he or she prepares for a new class of students? Are other students feeling anxious because they may be new to the school as well? Our “insides” often judge other’s “outsides” – we have no idea how someone is feeling on the inside, but it is easy to form judgments that might be based in our own insecurities. Rather than make assumptions, practice kindness and compassion – remember that others may be feeling the same thing. And, encourage kids to be compassionate toward themselves. No one expects them to have all the answers, and it is okay to make mistakes.

Taking a few moments each day to focus on the present moment can benefit the entire family, and help encourage skills in kids that will benefit them their entire lives.

Mindfulness Classes
UW Health offers mindfulness classes for middle schoolers and for teens. The next Mindfulness for Middle Schoolers class, intended for students in grades 6-8, begins October 20. The Mindfulness for Teens class, for high school age teens, begins September 28.

Smiling Sun

Enter this week’s giveaway

Leave a comment on telling us what you are grateful for this summer.
Prize: 1 $10 Target gift card
Rules: Giveaway closes on Sunday, August 10, 2014 at 11pm CST. Open to Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois residents only. One entry per email address is permitted. The winner will be selected using and announced on the following Monday as an update to this post. Winner will be notified via email and asked to provide a mailing address to receive the prize; if the winner does not respond within 7 days, the winner forfeits the prize and another winner will be selected. Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get new posts delivered to your inbox as soon as they’re posted.

About Lisa Thomas Prince, MPH, and Heather Sorenson, LCSW
Lisa teaches the Mindfulness for Middle Schoolers course, and Heather teaches the Mindfulness for Teens course.

View all posts by Lisa Thomas Prince, MPH, and Heather Sorenson, LCSW
Posted in Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , ,