CONCUSSION SAFETY REMINDERS
Athletes are often reluctant to speak up about head injuries because they fear appearing weak or letting their teammates down by being taken out of the game. As a coach, you can create a culture that promotes concussion safety, valuing open lines of communication so players feel comfortable being honest about head injuries.
Learn About Concussion Symptoms
Let’s review the most common signs, symptoms, and misconceptions of concussions. Concussions are serious brain injuries from a minor blow and don’t necessarily involve being knocked unconscious.
Common concussion symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Trouble paying attention
If a concussion is suspected, immediately remove your athlete from play. A rapid assessment minimizes the risk of potential long-term adverse effects. Then, encourage them to see a doctor, remaining alert to any unusual symptoms in the days after the injury.
Understand Concussion After Effects
We need to be candid: untreated concussions can have severe, lasting impacts, and ignoring symptoms can worsen everything, leading to long-term issues like post-traumatic headaches.
Recovery takes longer in teens and children than in adults, and participating in sports while concussed can delay healing even longer. Athletes with concussions may also see their symptoms worsen when they exercise or in an activity that needs concentration, like homework.
Prioritize Your Athlete’s Health
Let your team know that their health and well-being are the top priority—and more important than a game. Repetition and reinforcement of this message are crucial to your credibility. So, don’t pressure athletes to return too quickly after an injury. Instead, include them in team conversations and off-the-field events during recovery to help defuse the (perceived) stigma of sitting out.
Educate Parents about Concussion
Share your philosophy regarding safe play and reporting concussions with parents so athletes feel comfortable knowing their head injury is taken seriously in sports and at home. Note that concussions most frequently occur in football, hockey, rugby, soccer, lacrosse, and baseball.
Play by the Rules
Follow proper sports conduct, regulations, and rules to lower your team’s concussion risk (nearly 25% involving high school athletes are from aggressive or illegal play). For example, football coaches should inform athletes that hitting other players in the head with their helmets and colliding with unprotected opponents is illegal and unacceptable during practice or competition. It goes hand-in-hand with teaching proper techniques to help athletes protect themselves and others from unnecessary injury-causing impacts.
Properly Fit Athlete’s Equipment
Ensure your athlete’s equipment is functional, safe, and properly fitted to decrease the risk of injury. And while manufacturers and researchers are developing new technology to prevent concussions, it’s not something current sports equipment can promise—though helmets, pads, and mouth guards can prevent other injuries.
At the end of the day, your leadership and culture of open communication about concussion safety is the key to protecting your athletes from the long-term consequences of head injuries. When players know the warning signs, they can feel confident seeking help from you or a parent to get the medical care they need to return to play safely.
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