Concussion safety is on the tip of every sports expert’s tongue these days. And there is definitely reason for concern. There’s so much discussion going around that it can get rather overwhelming. Who should you listen to?
What should you be doing to be sure your child is safe when playing sports? I sorted through some of the information out there, and published some concussion precautions in my ebook, Football Mom’s Survival Guide. The following is an excerpt from that guide.
It’s obvious that we can’t totally eliminate concussions when kids play sports, but there are ways to make it safer..
First of all, helmets are not the total answer. Yes, they can prevent severe brain injury and skull fractures, but they don’t prevent concussions. That being said, make sure your child is wearing a helmet that meets U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards (the label inside should include the certification) and that it fits properly.
Second, every coach should be trained in concussion safety. The CDC offers online training for youth and high school coaches. Be sure your child’s coach is up to date on the latest concussion prevention and treatment information. And be sure the coach is teaching proper tackling techniques.
Third, it is important for parents to stay vigilant on the sidelines. The best way to protect children is to watch for signs of concussions and then keep them out of the game until their symptoms go away. If you suspect that a coach is continuing to keep a child on the field after an injury, speak up. Playing or practicing with concussion symptoms is dangerous and can lead to longer recovery and a delay in a child’s return to the sport. There should be no “toughing it out” when it comes to head injuries.
As NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says, “It’s not cool to be tough when it comes to your head.” Fourth, ask if your child’s school does pre-season baseline neurological tests for its athletes. These are measures of the child’s balance and brain functions, such as memory and focus. This test helps in evaluating the impact of any future head injury.
After the Concussion Occurs
Concussion education is not only for you as a mom, but it’s also for your son. Urge him to speak up about possible concussion symptoms, such as headaches, light-headedness, nausea, blurry vision, dizziness, depression, sensitivity to light and noise, confusion, and difficulty in processing information.
If your child suffers a hit to the head, get prompt medical attention. A CT scan may be needed to rule out bleeding in the brain. Follow up with your primary care physician or a neurologist. Sometimes concussion symptoms don’t show up for a day or two, so keep an eye out for symptoms after you get home.
Last year, my son got a concussion while playing college football. It’s probably a good thing I was across the country and didn’t see the hit. Who knows what I would have done! But we talked frequently over the phone and the week of recovery turned into three. He was anxious to get back practicing after a week, but we were glad that the doctor was being very cautious about releasing him to play. Nothing—not even the danger of losing your position—is worth long-term problems resulting from carelessly returning to the field of play before it is safe.
The fact is, sooner or later, people with concussions will most likely make a full recovery. However, it is important that your child’s brain get rest because the brain is vulnerable to damage from even minor jolts while it is still recovering.
For children, the consequences of not resting can result in a rare complication called “second impact syndrome,” which refers to the brain swelling after a person suffers a second concussion while he or she is still symptomatic from the first one. Second impact syndrome can severely disable or kill a child.
Your child may also need to avoid stimulating activities and even schoolwork for a while. Keep your son’s teacher and school nurse updated on his progress.
For a more thorough education on concussions, I suggest you take a few minutes to visit the MomsTeam concussion safety center. They tell you everything you need to know about youth sports concussions and have been speaking out for sports safety for years.