Before injuries happen Where can I go to get more information about concussions?
The CDC website has a lot of good information about concussions for coaches. There is a coach training video that is very helpful, plus handouts that can be downloaded for you, your parents, and the athletes.
What should I be doing before our season starts to protect my athletes?
First, educate yourself about the injury. The next thing to do in preseason is to emphasize to the athletes and their parents the importance of taking these injuries seriously. Explain that a concussion is an injury to the brain and is very serious. Next, to help with recognition, review the signs and symptoms of concussion, using the CDC Athlete Fact Sheet. Stress to the athletes that they are responsible for not only themselves but also their teammates. Also, emphasize the importance of wearing properly fitted equipment (e.g., helmets, mouthguards) for general protection. Teaching proper technique in the sports is also important. Explain to the team that you will not allow unsafe play.
What is “baseline testing?” Should I have my athletes tested?
Neuropsychological testing is one of the tools used in a concussion evaluation. The testing typically involves assessing the student-athlete’s attention, memory, speed of thinking, and reaction time. These functions have been shown to be sensitive to the effects of a concussion, and can be one important indicator that the brain is not working normally. The testing that is administered before an injury occurs is called “baseline neuropsychological testing” and can be used as a point of comparison for the testing that is done after the injury (post-injury testing) to gauge recovery, along with a careful assessment of symptoms. It is important to find a trained professional in your area who is experienced with the administration and interpretation of these neuropsychological tests. They are not to be used by untrained individuals.
The parents of my athletes are worried about concussions. What should I tell them?
Parents must also be educated about concussions, including their signs and symptoms. Direct them to the CDC Parent Fact sheet or to the CDC Concussions in Sports page. They can also obtain a similar app for their smartphone that can give them information about concussions, and tools to check their son or daughter if they suspect a concussion.
Early Recognition and Response How do I know if an athlete on my team had a concussion?
As the coach, you don’t have to diagnose the concussion. Your job is to recognize a possible concussion by observing two things: (1) a blow to the head or body that is concerning and (2) any sign or symptom that tells you something may not be right with the athlete. Use the Signs & Symptoms information to assist or the CDC clipboard sticker.. If you have a reasonable suspicion that these two indicators are present, follow the motto “When in doubt, sit them out.” This means that if you suspect a concussion may have occurred, you should immediately pull the athlete out of practice/play, inform their parents about what happened, and direct the parents to information about concussions, and how to get medically evaluated.
A concussion is defined as a direct or indirect force to the head (could be a direct hit or a whiplash-type injury) that results in neurological impairment (e.g., signs & symptoms). If you see or are told that a child has received a blow, you should ask specific questions about their condition.
I’m still not sure exactly when I should pull an athlete out. Where can I get more information?
Further training on concussion recognition and response can be obtained by viewing the available coach training videos:
After the injury As a coach, what is important for me to know about the treatment for a concussion?
There are two important things to do after a concussion to help recovery. First, make sure that the athlete does not participate in any higher risk activities where they could take additional blows to the head. Second, to help the brain heal as quickly as possible, cognitive (thinking) and physical rest are also very important. Only allow the athlete to return to higher risk activities (practices, scrimmages, and competition) after a qualified health care professional evaluates and clears the athlete to do so.
A gradual return to play (RTP) program is the last step in concussion recovery before returning to sports participation. This RTP program starts when the athlete is fully without any symptoms at rest. The RTP program typically takes place over 5 days with close monitoring for the return of any post-concussion symptoms at each stage. The athlete goes through a set of physical activities that gradually increase in intensity and movement. Once the athlete is able to demonstrate a high level of physical activity, with sport-specific movements, and controlled contact (when appropriate), they are then ready to return to full sports participation, including practice and games.