Every 3 minutes, a student athlete ends up in the ER for a sports-related concussion. That adds up to 480 kids per day! And that’s just kids who are getting treatment, not all of the kids getting concussions! Concussions are often undiagnosed and unreported!
It’s not just the high school aged kids that we have to worry about either, kids ages 12-15 make up 47% of those 480 or almost 240 12-15 year olds every day! Another surprising trend is that girls are slightly more likely to be treated for a concussion! For example, 11.5% of girls who played basketball were treated for concussion versus only 7.2% of the boys! It’s unclear though why this is. Are girls more likely to be injured? Or are they better at admitting they are injured and/or having symptoms?
So what are concussions? They are actually a traumatic brain injury (TBI)! They occur when the head experiences any kind of jolt, hit, or bump. Our brains are surrounded by fluid that, among other things, helps to protect our brains. When we get hit in the head, our brains can actually hit the inside of our skulls or even bounce around a bit. This can lead to chemical changes in the brain or the stretching and damaging of brain cells! And that is a concussion!
Here are some tips to keep in mind to help keep your student athlete safe this playing season:
-Know the signs and symptoms of a concussion! Coaches, student athletes, and parents should all take the time to learn what the symptoms of a concussion are. Less than 10% involve the loss of consciousness so don’t just look for signs after a player loses consciousness, check each player any time they get hit in the head! Some symptoms might show up immediately while others make take hours or days to appear!
- Confusion – is confused about an assignment or position
- Forgetfulness/Trouble Remembering – can’t recall events prior to or after a hit or fall; forgets an instruction/play
- Glassy eyes
- Disorientation – is unsure of the game, score, or opponent
- Clumsiness or poor balance
- Slowed speech – answers questions slowly
- Changes in mood, behavior or personality
- Difficulty focusing
- Headache or “pressure” in head
- Appears dazed or stunned.
- Loses consciousness (even briefly).
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Double or blurry vision.
- Bothered by light or noise.
- Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
- Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down”.
-Have athletes do pre-season physicals to check for any problems that might have developed or been missed previously. Post-season physicals are a good ideas as well.
-Make sure that athletes are using the appropriate and properly-fitted gear for their sport. And that they wear it properly and keep in it good condition! The correct gear used responsibly can help lessen the severity of injuries or prevent them all together.
-Make sure athletes are being taught proper techniques.
-Make sure athletes understand the importance of letting coaches and parents know of any symptoms they might be having. They will not have any future at any level in their sport if they are not taking care of themselves – and that includes proper medical care for concussions!
-Coaches should have an emergency plan in place before the season begins on how to handle injuries and concussions. Your volunteers actually provide emergency medical coverage during games for several sports as part of the plan!
-While 78% of reported sports-related concussions occur during games rather than practice, it is still incredibly important that athletes wear their gear any time they are playing whether in a game or in practice!
-Any athlete who is suspected to have a concussion needs to sit out from games and practice until they can be evaluated and cleared by a medical professional – even if it is the last two minutes of the fourth quarter! You do not want the kids to get hit again and worsen the concussion. Concussions are serious and they can have permanent consequences. Every concussion needs to be evaluated by a medical professional. Remember: When in doubt, sit them out!
-Allow athletes with concussions time to heal. Most kids start to feel better within a couple of weeks, although younger kids (13-16) taken longer to recover than older kids. Athletes should fully rest, then begin light exercise, then sport specific training, then full contact training – and they should have the approval from a medical professional as they move through each step!
Never ignore a head injury! They can have effects that last a lifetime. Better to be safe than to be sorry. Make sure each head injury is checked out by a medical professional!