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Loss Control Insights for Schools

Concussion Detection for Youth Athletes (updated August 2023)

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More than 280,000 children and teens land in the emergency department each year for sports- related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

While typically not life-threatening, these injuries can have severe long-term effects if untreated. Recognizing the significance of concussion detection, symptoms and prevention among student athletes is crucial for their well-being.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells. Identifying and addressing concussions promptly is critical to mitigating any potential consequences.

What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?

Concussion symptoms may emerge immediately or hours later. The chart below outlines common concussion symptoms to look for after a collision or impact occurs.

Common Concussion Symptoms

Headache or pressure in headConfusionIrritabilityTrouble falling asleep
Nausea or vomitingFeeling mentally foggy or slowed downSadnessSleeping more than usual
Balance problems or dizzinessDifficulty remembering events before/after the incidentNervousnessSleeping less than usual
FatigueDifficulty focusing or trouble concentratingMore emotional than usual
Sensitivity to light or noise
Loss of consciousness
Slurred Speech

Responding to Concussions

Student athletes are prone to concussions due to sports-related activities. For prompt and effective management, follow these steps any time an athlete hits their head, no matter how trivial the injury may seem.

  1. Immediate Removal: The sooner you get an athlete out of the game, the sooner they can get back to a healthy state. Check for signs and symptoms of a concussion. And when in doubt, sit them out.
  2. Professional Evaluation: Seek evaluation by a healthcare expert. Do not try to judge the severity of the injury yourself. Take note of the cause of the injury, if there was loss of consciousness and for how long, if there was memory loss or seizures, and if there are any known previous concussions. This information can be helpful to medical professionals.
  3. Inform the Guardian: Let the athlete’s guardian know that you suspect a possible concussion and provide them with a fact sheet containing information about symptoms and how long to monitor the athlete.

  4. Rest and Recovery: Even if the athlete feels up to playing or is a key member of the team, they should remain sidelined from play until a medical professional approves their return.
  5. Gradual Return: After medical approval, gradual reintegration is essential. Stages involve symptom-limited activities, light aerobic exercises, sport-specific drills, non-contact training, controlled contract practice, and eventually a full return to sport.

How to Prevent Concussions

Preventing concussions involves multiple layers of protection:

  • Proper Gear: Athletes should wear well-fitting, sport-specific headgear and safety equipment to reduce brain injury risk.
  • Skills Education: Coaches must emphasize safe techniques and discourage dangerous plays.
  • Immediate Reporting: Athletes should promptly report head impacts and symptoms to coaches, trainers and guardians. Neglecting even minor head injuries can have severe consequences.

The high incidence of concussions among student athletes necessitates proactive measures. Timely recognition, expert assessment and adherence to protocols are vital in safeguarding players’  well-being. By taking these steps, you can minimize the impact of concussions, ensuring the long-term health and success of young athletes in sports.

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