Concussions in Youth Sports

Concussions in Youth SportsConcussion discussions have been on a rise for about 10 years now. Many professional organizations have developed some sort of concussion protocol or prevention methods for their companies. The NFL, for example, has added penalties for vicious helmet to helmet hits including a 15-yard penalty (the most yards a penalty can accrue), fines in excess of $100,000, and/or game suspensions. These are positive initiatives that larger companies have developed; but what about the little guys?

A large majority of youth participate in sports every day. These sports are typically coached by dads with no first aid or medical training. This article will give inexperienced coaches the knowledge and education necessary to identify signs and symptoms of a concussion and treatments they can provide to their young athletes who may have experienced one.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that occurs when your brain rapidly bounces off the hard walls of your skull. It is caused by a hit, jolt, or bump to any part of your body, specifically the head. For example, a baseball player can get a concussion from being hit in the head with a ball or colliding with the catcher causing their head to violently jerk forward then backwards.

Do concussions have noticeable signs and symptoms?

This is a complex question because the severity of concussions can drastically vary. Sometimes signs and symptoms are noticeable and some are not easily depicted. After witnessing a blow, hit or jolt to a child a coach should look for the following signs:

– loss of consciousness (does not occur every time)
– memory loss (event before blow AND/OR after the blow)
– confusion on mastered tasks (the child can’t tie his/her shoe)
– unstable (stumbling or unbalanced)
– one pupil (black circle in the middle of the eye) is larger than the other

A coach should also be aware of symptoms the child might describe soon after the incident. They can include one or more of the following:

– complains of a headache
– vomits or feels nauseous
– sensitive to smells, light, and noise
– feels dizzy or woozy

What steps can I take to begin initial treatment?

It may sound cliché but it is as easy as 1-2-3.

1- Do not let the child continue to participate. This may be tough to do, especially if the child insists he or she is ok. Remember that it is not up to them; you are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of these children.

2- Notify their parents immediately. It is important to inform the child’s parents right away. If they are not at the game or practice, have a parent of another child call them. If they are present, you may experience pressure from them to allow their child to continue to play. Always remember step 1 and inform the parents that they are not going back in.

3- Advice that the parents seek medical attention for their child. Concussions are very serious and can affect the child for a lifetime. Once a concussion occurs, the chances that it will happen again increase substantially. Do not let the child participate in the sport until a medical doctor has released them to do so.

In closing, it is extremely important that all youth sport coaches be familiar with concussion protocol. If a coach can recognize the signs and symptoms and follow the 3 step treatment plan, the child is more likely to recover quicker and not have long term damages.

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