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article imageConcussions and youth sports Special

By Tim Sandle     Jun 7, 2014 in Health
Suffering from a concussion can occur in any sport, and at all levels of play. The U.S. Center for Disease Control estimates 1.6 million to 3.8 million concussions occur in sports and recreational activities each year.
According to the organization CoachUp, early education and a shift in the “tough it out” mentality is needed in order to reduce the frequency of concussions in young athletes, as well as, reduce the number of concussions that go undiagnosed. Parents and coaches have to raise the bar and set the standard that the athlete’s health is first priority.
Just last week U.S. President Barack Obama called for more robust research into youth concussions. Nearly 250,000 kids and young adults visit hospital emergency rooms each year with brain injuries caused by sports or other recreational activities.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that can occur in both contact and non-contact sports. A concussion is a bump, jolt or blow to either the head or body that causes the brain to move quickly back and forth, and or twist within the skull. According to the Positive Coaching Alliance, approximately 65-80 percent of initial concussions go unrecognized.
Moreover, athletes that have incurred one concussion are at an increased risk to sustain another, and to experience “second impact syndrome.” The CDC defines “second impact syndrome” as subsequent concussions before the brain fully recovers from the first trauma. This is where the most severe, long term damage can occur in an athlete.
To find out more about the risks, Digital Journal spoke with the CoachUp. CoachUp is a service that connects athletes with private coaches. The CoachUp mission is to help change the trajectory of kid’s lives through sports.
CoachUp is running a campaign to help parents and coaches to become more aware of and know when concussion symptoms are being presented by an athlete. These symptoms present when an athlete:
Appears dazed or stunned
Is confused about an assignment or position
Forgets an instruction
Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
Moves clumsily
Answers questions slowly
Loses consciousness (even briefly)
Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes
Can’t recall events prior to a hit or fall
Can’t recall events after a hit or fall
More severe symptoms may be present when an athlete:
Has one pupil larger than the other
Is drowsy or cannot be awakened
Has headache that gets worse
Has weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination
Exhibits repeated vomiting or nausea
Slurs his speech
Has convulsions or seizures
Cannot recognize people or places
Becomes increasingly confused, restless, or agitated
Presents unusual behavior
Loses consciousness (even a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously)
Based on a foundation of competition and physical perseverance, it’s hard to withstand the “win at all costs” pressure that has come to exist in athletics. CoachUp football coach and former Patriots offensive tackle, Max Lane, recognizes that pressure but also understands the life-long impact this injury can have on an athlete. Max Lane told Digital Journal: “Everybody wants to win. Coaches have to let the players know that at the beginning of the season that the coach is fostering an atmosphere of safety first, even when that means safety over winning. The coach has to communicate to the players that it’s okay for them to speak up if they’ve been hit in the head.”
CoachUp has provided a list of top 5 Concussion Prevention Tips for Parents and Coaches. These are:
1. Educate yourself. Learn the symptoms of concussions and traumatic brain injuries. Review the CDC’s fact sheet for parents and take the CDC’s free online course. Be familiar with the CDC’s guide for coaches.
2. Educate your children. Review the CDC’s fact sheet for athletes with your child and quiz your child on the symptoms on an ongoing basis.
3. Encourage open communication and ask questions. Introduce yourself to your child’s coach in a friendly and open manner so that the coach will always feel comfortable coming to you with any concerns regarding your child. Then ask your child’s coach how he or she will be conducting concussion education over the course of your child’s season. Continue to maintain regular contact with the coach over the season and encourage your child to talk to his coach on a regular basis, so he or she develops a comfortable and open relationship with their coach. An honest relationship with their coach and knowing you are communicating with their coach regularly will encourage your child to air concerns more openly should they sustain a concussion or injury in play.
4. Know who the medical professional is. Identify whom the trainer or medical professional is at your child’s sports organization or school, and find out if they will be attending games. You should always know who is in charge of medical care or who to speak with should your child ever get hurt. Make sure your child’s medical information is always on file and up to date with their sports organization and school.
5. Celebrate safe and legal play. During, and after competitions, make an extra effort to celebrate when your child makes a play that is completed with good form and technique. If you see your child making plays that are overly violent, talk to your child about it immediately after the game. If your child says that was how he was taught to play, consider following up with your child’s coach to review how you can help reinforce safe play with your child, which, will help reinforce coach that you want your child being coached safely.
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