Young Athletes And Concussions

Concussions can happen in any sport, whether it is a high impact sport like football, soccer, and basketball, or a lower impact sport such as track and field, tennis, and cross country.

concussionA concussion is a traumatic brain injury that alters the way a brain functions, and can have a negative impact on its victim for years to come. Although concussions are usually caused by a blow to the head, they can also occur when a person’s head and upper body are violently shaken causing the brain to be forced back and forth inside the skull. Concussion damage can range from mild to severe and 90% of all concussions occur without a loss of consciousness.

All concussions are potentially serious and can result in complications including, prolonged brain damage or, in the worst cases, death if not recognized and managed properly.

Signs and symptoms can present themselves immediately or sometimes can take a few hours or days to fully appear. In other words, concussions and their symptoms are unpredictable, which means that young athletes and their parents, as well as their coaches, need to be educated and ready to spot the symptoms of a concussion. If an athlete reports any symptoms of a concussion or you notice the symptoms and signs, the athlete should be immediately removed from activity and evaluated by a medical professional.

What do I do if I suspect my child has suffered a concussion?

Any athlete who is suspected of suffering a concussion should be removed from play immediately. No athlete should return to a sports-related activity after sustaining an apparent concussion, regardless of how mild or how quickly the symptoms subside, without written medical clearance from an appropriate health care professional. Close observation of the athlete should continue for several hours and you should seek medical care. The child’s parent, coach, athletic trainer, and/or school administrator should be alerted immediately if an incident has occurred where a concussion is suspected.

What can happen if my child keeps playing a sport with a concussion or returns too soon?

Athletes with signs and symptoms of a concussion should immediately be removed from practice or the game where an incident has occurred. Continuing to play leaves the young athlete especially vulnerable to sustaining a second concussion. There is an increased risk of significant damage to the brain if an athlete who sustains a second concussion before the first one has resolved. This can lead to prolonged recovery or even severe brain swelling (Second Impact Syndrome) with devastating and even fatal consequences.

What are the steps to recovering from a concussion?

The first step in gaining full concussion recovery is cognitive rest and is essential for the brain to fully heal. Activities that require concentration and attention, including homework, use of electronic devices, such as computers, tablets, video games, texting, etc., as well as exposure to loud noises, may worsen symptoms and delay recovery. Students may need their academic workload modified initially while they are recovering from their concussion. This may involve staying home from school for a few days, followed by a lightened school schedule, and then gradually returning to a normal schedule. No consideration should be given to returning to physical activity until the student is fully integrated back into the classroom and is symptom free.

When should a young athlete return to practice or competition after a concussion?

An athlete must first complete a graduated, step-wise return-to-participation physical activity progression under the supervision of a medical professional, as outlined in Max’s Law (OAR 581-022-0421), which requires Oregon school districts to implement concussion management guidelines for all student athletes.

The athlete should then be given a written clearance note (per Oregon State Law HB 348) from a health care professional, releasing them to full practice and competition. Until these steps take place, the student should not be cleared for practice or competition.

What’s most important is the health of our youth athletes. And while these protocols, symptom assessments, and recommendations for concussion awareness and management may seem cumbersome, they are necessary in order to keep our athletes safe and sound on the field and at home.

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