With all of the recent media attention about concussion awareness in the NFL, there has also been a call for concussion awareness in high school football from organizations like the CDC and USA Football. Concussions are a particular concern among young adults who are still developing–they can often take longer to recover.
Parents, coaches, and players all need to work together to ensure that all concussions are reported and treated properly. The following tips can help football players, coaches and parents take action against concussions.
1. Avoid the “win at all costs” attitude.
Whether it’s external pressure from coaches and parents or the athlete doesn’t want to disappoint anyone, the “win at all costs” attitude can be dangerous. In some cases, this attitude can drive a football player to keep playing even when he is injured. It is very dangerous for an athlete to return to play with a concussion. Coaches and parents need to educate players about concussions and why it is important to report them. At the end of the day, the athlete’s health and well-being is more important than winning a game.
2. Know how to spot a concussion.
Symptoms are not always obvious right away and in some cases may not be present for several days. This is why it is important for parents, coaches, and players to be aware of all symptoms. Concussion symptoms include dizziness, headache, memory loss, irritability, confusion, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, difficulty communicating, and changes in sleeping patterns. Loss of consciousness is also a symptom of a concussion, but contrary to popular belief, a person does not have to lose consciousness to have a concussion. If even one of these symptoms is present after a football player sustains a blow to the head, he should be examined by a medical professional.
3. When in doubt, get checked out.
When it comes to concussions, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. If a football player sustains a hard blow to the head, but there are no symptoms present immediately afterward, it is still a good idea to get checked out by a medical professional. Likewise, if symptoms go away quickly, the player should still see a doctor. If a football player is allowed to return to play with a concussion, he is at risk for a condition called “second impact syndrome,” in which the brain sustains a second concussion while still recovering from the first. Second impact syndrome has been known to result in permanent damage and even death.
4. Players should not be allowed to return until they are fully healed.
Players are still at risk for second impact syndrome even if they don’t return to play immediately after sustaining a concussion; it can even happen weeks later if the brain has not fully healed. Even if the player says he feels fine after being treated for a concussion, he should not return to the game or any other restricted activities until he has been cleared by his doctor. It is up to parents and coaches to enforce the recovery plan put in place by the player’s doctor. Everyone is different and recovers at their own pace–some may recover quickly, while others may be out for several weeks. This is why it is important to be cleared by a doctor before returning to play.
Everyone needs to do their part to make sure concussions are treated properly among high school football players. We can’t always prevent them, but we can take action to ensure that no concussion goes undetected.