Injury prevention is a large part of the work athletic trainers do with student athletes. Yet, concussion prevention is more nuanced than preventing ankle sprains or ACL injuries. When it comes to sports-related concussions, you cannot always prevent the accidental blow to the head, a trip and fall, or the surprise hit on the football field. This means that concussions can and will happen in sports. All injuries, concussions included, are part of the inherent risks of playing sports. With that said, there is still a lot that can be done to minimize the frequency of concussions, as well as reduce the long-term negative outcomes. Namely, education, awareness, and ensuring that medical coverage exists whenever sports are being played are the best tools for concussion prevention.
Education and Awareness
Education and awareness are possibly the most important factors in concussion prevention. Coaches, parents, players, officials, school administrators, and teachers can all benefit from concussion education. In fact, everyone should be aware of the signs and symptoms of a concussion. This awareness ensures that injured players are removed from play immediately for evaluation by a healthcare professional.
Players should be aware of the symptoms of concussion as well. And, they should also understand the risks associated with continuing to play sports with a concussion. At the same time, coaches, officials, and school administrators can encourage athletes to report their symptoms without fear of consequence. Awareness is necessary for school staff so they can work to accommodate injured students in the classroom. When everyone is aware and working together, we reduce the risk of young athletes suffering long-term consequences and lower the incidence of repeat concussions.
Although it may not be possible to prevent concussions entirely, there are several ways to reduce the long-term consequences of concussions and the risk of Second Impact Syndrome.
Promoting a positive sports culture and environment
Promoting a positive culture and environment in sports helps eliminate any negative stigma around reporting an injury. Often, young athletes avoid telling someone about their injury out of fear of being seen as weak. Likewise, they tend to keep an injury to themselves to avoid being forced to sit out from participation. In fact, fear of letting the team down is one of the biggest barriers to reporting concussions by athletes.
It’s true that some coaches may discourage an athlete from reporting an injury. They may also threaten them with losing their position on the team. However, this kind of coaching is not constructive or safe for the athletes and shouldn’t be tolerated. By promoting a positive sports culture and environment, we teach youth that they are better off reporting injuries sooner so that they can come back and contribute to the team at 100%.
Enforce rules and teach proper sporting technique
Teaching and practicing proper tackling and hitting techniques helps reduce frequency of concussions. Enforcing rules against spearing, targeting, or unnecessary roughness helps to prevent concussions and other serious head injuries. While these rules are specific to football, we will continue to look at when and how head injuries occur in sports, and make changes to reduce the risk and prevent further concussions.
Enforcing rules also refers to statewide rules, like Max’s Law and Jenna’s Law in Oregon, which remove injured athletes from play. Oregon and Washington were front-runners in adopting these rules, and our athletic trainers have applied them for years. As a result, high school athletes in Central Oregon have benefitted with concussion rates lower than the national average. To date, nearly 50 states have adopted rules similar to Max’s and Jenna’s laws. In fact, states where these laws are in place have also seen their concussion rates drop.
Adopt a concussion protocol and ensure that appropriate medical coverage is available
Having an appropriate medical plan in place is key to reducing the risk of more serious injury following the concussion, as well as preventing repeat concussions. A good medical plan, or concussion protocol, is one that follows the best practice recommendations for recognizing, evaluating, and treating concussions. Also, it helps to ensure that it is safe for a player to return to sports after a concussion. Ensuring medical coverage at all youth sporting events is an important part of a functional concussion protocol. That’s where athletic trainers come in. In fact, athletic trainers are injury evaluation and treatment experts, both on and off the playing field. Plus, they specialize in concussion recognition, evaluation, and management. We believe strongly in having athletic trainers present at all games and practices. Without a doubt, athletic trainers are essential to a quality concussion protocol and risk management strategy.
Parents can support this initiative by asking their youth sports organization about their concussion protocol. In addition, they can advocate for the hiring of athletic trainers.
Along with the above measures, it’s also important for teams to have the right equipment in good condition and properly fitted. Contrary to popular belief, helmets do not prevent concussions. However, a well-fitted helmet is an important element in preventing other serious injuries.
GET THE HELP YOU NEED WHEN YOU NEED IT.
If you believe your child has a concussion, you should seek medical attention from a concussion specialist. NOWcare at The Center, offers immediate concussion evaluation with no appointment. NOWcare is available MONDAY – FRIDAY 9 A.M. – 4 P.M. with same day ImPACT testing, if needed. Click here for more information.
Next, Dr. Ugalde’s weekly Friday Concussion Clinics at The Center offer support to those experiencing longer-term concussion symptoms. Call 541-322-2214 for more information.
In addition, if your child plays high school sports in Central Oregon, your high school athletic trainer is available during school hours. Find your high school athletic trainer HERE.
Get the support your child needs to safely recover from a concussion.
GET YOUR CHILD BACK IN THE GAME SAFELY
We are passionate about getting Central Oregon youth the care they need when they have experienced a concussion. To this end, we follow a research-based model of management in treating concussions. Like you, our focus is on getting your child healthy, and safely returning them to the activity they love.
Additionally, we strive to provide the most current concussion information on these pages. However, if you do not find what you are looking for here, please contact us.