Parents and coaches should prepare for the possibility of concussion. From football and ice hockey to cheerleading and soccer, concussions account for 15 percent of all high school sport injuries and should be treated as soon as they are suspected. Below are five tips for parents, players, and coaches to help prevent concussions in young athletes.
Symptoms and Signs of a Concussion
It is extremely dangerous for a young athlete who sustains a mild concussion during a game to return to play in a compromised state. It is essential for all athletes and coaches to recognize the signs and symptoms right away. Not only does prompt treatment prevent further brain injury, it could also keep an athlete from missing an entire sports season versus one game.
Signs that parents and coaches should look for include:
- Appearing dazed or confused
- Forgetting instructions
- Answering questions slowly
- Moving clumsily
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance problems or dizziness
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Double vision
- Feeling sluggish or foggy
- Concentration or memory problems
- Loss of conciousness
Properly Fitted Equipment
Properly fitted protective equipment such as helmets and mouth guards are essential for preventing head injuries. A good helmet will provide a protective barrier for your skull and help absorb impact. Still, equipment alone cannot protect against concussions. Players must take other precautions to remain injury-free.
Follow Sports Safety Rules
Knowing how to play a sport safely and exercising caution are important factors in preventing concussions. In high-contact sports like football and hockey, teaching players to block and tackle with their heads up will help prevent concussions. Rules have also changed in high-contact sports to help minimize head-to-head contact and prevent players diagnosed with a concussion from returning to a game.
Concussion Baseline Testing
Although it won't prevent concussions from physically happening, baseline testing gives coaches and athletic trainers an objective test to diagnose concussions when they happen. This helps keep players and athletes from returning to a game or competition that could make their injuries worse. Both computerized and physical testing serve as a baselines that can be retested if a player sustains an injury.
Educate Athletes on the Dangers of Concussions
Since concussions are extremely common and considered "functional injuries," players may not realize how detrimental they can be to the brain if left untreated. There is a culture in sports that has athletes walking off injuries or playing through pain while ignoring the serious nature of internal injuries.
"I think that it should be emphasized that the most important 'prevention' is awareness," says Michelle Horn, DO, a concussion specialist and family physician. "The helmets and mouth guards do not prevent concussions, they prevent more serious head and tooth injuries."
Unlike a broken bone or sprained ankle, the signs and symptoms can be subtle. Not treating a traumatic brain injury with rest and evaluation can have serious short- and long-term cognitive consequences.
Athletes need to learn the dangers and feel comfortable reporting any symptoms without feeling like they are letting down their teammates and coaches.
Pediatric Sports Injuries & Concussions [Video]
Go to the Emergency Room if You Experience
- A loss of consciousness lasting more than a minute
- Repeated vomiting
- Obvious difficulty with mental function or physical coordination
- Symptoms that worsen over time
- Things just don't seem right
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