Concussions are a hot topic both on and off the field of play. Over 340,000 high school sports-related concussions (SRC) are reported every year, causing concerns for athletes, parents, school officials, and health care providers.
According to a recent study from the Journal of Athletic Training, schools where an athletic trainer isn’t available for more than a few hours a week, the chance of an SRC going undetected and/or mismanaged goes up significantly, which means that 340,000 number is really much larger.
Nobody should be slipping through the cracks, especially when it comes to the critical nature of SRC injuries.
High schools need to have a sports medicine professional, such as an athletic trainer, accessible during practice and competition to guide the identification, management and return to play process to ensure that student-athletes are able to return to play safely. Coaches and even the athletes themselves may knowingly or unknowingly make decisions that favor winning over safety.
What can a parent do?
–Educate themselves about concussions, the warning signs, and the recovery process.
–Advocate for appropriate sports medicine support at their school during both practices and competition.
–Share the signs and symptoms of a concussion with their student athlete.
–Discuss with their student athlete:
- About the seriousness of concussions and the need to immediately report symptoms to their athletic trainer, parent, or coach.
- Emphasize that health comes before playing. Taking time to get healthy isn’t going to make them look weak or destroy their athletic future.
What to do if your son or daughter has a sports-related concussion?
While only a medical professional can diagnose a concussion, here are a few signs and symptoms for parents to be on the lookout for: worsening headaches and dizziness, weakness in the arms or legs, sleep problems (both too much and too little), confusion, as well as unusual behavior changes.
National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) also offers the following action steps for parents if a concussion is suspected:
Report: Immediately tell a coach, athletic trainer or other medical professional if you suspect your child might have suffered a concussion.
Get checked out: Only a health care professional experienced in concussion management can determine if your child has had a concussion and if so when it is safe to return to play.
Rest: As soon as the concussion occurs, your child should keep a regular sleep routine and avoid activities that require a lot of concentration or could increase symptoms.
Recover: It takes time to heal. If your child sustains another concussion while the brain is healing, it could result in long-term problems or even death.
Take it slow: Once the physician or athletic trainer gives the go-ahead to return to activity, be sure your child eases back in. The athletic trainer will work with your child to develop a safe plan for gradually returning to school activity and play.
Address concerns: If you have concerns about your child’s health and return to sport, do not hesitate to bring them up with an athletic trainer, physician or other health care provider.