Youth sports in our world today is more popular than ever before. Children are playing multiple sports throughout the year with less time off and sometimes even specializing in one sport the entire year. The more children that are playing sports comes with a higher risk of concussions. Concussions are a hot topic in the world of athletics and there is more and more research coming out from experts in hopes to educate the general public like parents and coaches.
We all must understand that a concussion does not have to involve impact to the head.
Schools and club sports are doing a good job providing coaches with concussion awareness training but there are many levels of youth sports that are not providing parents and coaches with the necessary information. So what is the basic protocol if you have an athlete or child that you may suspect having sustained a concussion? Usually a coach or parent will witness the collision that may lead to the start of symptoms. A concussion is a “jarring of the brain” within the skull and this can also happen from impact to the body causing a whiplash effect. Regardless of where the impact was, if the athlete complains of the common concussion symptoms like headache, nausea, sensitivity to noise/light, disorientation, blurred vision, tinnitus just to name a few, it is always best to remove the athlete immediately from competition/practice especially if there are no team physicians or certified athletic trainers to run the athlete through specific tests. The parents should be contacted immediately about the situation.
Parents often ask if they should take their child to the emergency room when they are reporting of concussion-like symptoms. If symptoms seemed to be worsening, I would recommend a visit to the ER in which worst case scenario, a CT scan may be ordered to rule out a brain bleed. I always tell parents it’s better to be safe than sorry. In most cases, the athlete would be discharged and have the parents monitor the symptoms and to make an appointment with their family physician for an evaluation.
What is the Protocol for a Concussion?
In my experience, most high schools have concussion protocols. When an athlete was formally diagnosed by their family physician they may prescribe rest, minimal activity and possibly modifications to school work or some may keep kids out of school until asymptomatic. Once the athlete is cleared by their physician they still had to run through a gradual return to play protocol with the certified athletic trainer which could take anywhere from 7 days to several weeks depending on if symptoms returned during the protocol. Many programs, doctor offices and schools are doing baseline testing at the beginning of the athletic season so that they may compare results if the athlete was to suffer a concussion.
Some levels of youth sports may not have access to family physicians, athletic trainers or return to play protocols but the most important thing is not returning the athlete too early and putting them at further risk. Sports even at the professional levels are making rule changes in favor of protecting the athlete’s brain and this is why it is so important to educate the public about concussion awareness and the best way to improve awareness is to start with the kids.