THE FACTS • A concussion is a brain injury. • All concussions are serious. • Concussions can occur without loss of consciousness. • Concussions can occur in any sport. • Recognition and proper management of concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or even death.
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WHAT IS A CONCUSSION? A concussion is an injury that changes how the cells in the brain normally work. A concussion is caused by a blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull. Even a “ding,” “getting your bell rung,” or what seems to be a mild bump or blow to the head can be serious. Concussions can also result from a fall or from players colliding with each other or with obstacles, such as a goalpost. The potential for concussions is greatest in athletic environments where collisions are common.1 Concussions can occur, however,
in any organized or unorganized sport or recreational activity. RECOGNIZING A POSSIBLE CONCUSSION To help recognize a concussion, you should watch for the following two things among your athletes: 1. A forceful blow to the head or body that results in rapid movement of the head. and2. Any change in the athlete’s behavior, thinking, or physical functioning. (See the signs and symptoms of concussion listed on the next page.)
It’s better to miss one game than the whole season.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
SIGNS OBSERVED BY COACHING STAFF SYMPTOMS REPORTED BY ATHLETE
• Appears dazed or stunned • Headache or “pressure” in head
• Is confused about assignment • Nausea or vomiting
or position • Balance problems or dizziness
• Forgets sports plays • Double or blurry vision
• Is unsure of game, score, or opponent • Sensitivity to light
• Moves clumsily • Sensitivity to noise
• Answers questions slowly • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy,
• Loses consciousness (even briefly) or groggy
• Shows behavior or personality • Concentration or memory problems
changes • Confusion
• Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall • Does not “feel right”
• Can’t recall events after hit or fall
Athletes who experience any of these signs or
symptoms after a bump or blow to the head
should be kept from play until given permission
to return to play by a health care professional
with experience in evaluating for concussion.
Signs and symptoms of concussion can last
from several minutes to days, weeks, months,
or even longer in some cases.
Remember, you can’t see a concussion and
some athletes may not experience and/or
report symptoms until hours or days after the
injury. If you have any suspicion that your
athlete has a concussion, you should keep the
athlete out of the game or practice.
PREVENTION AND PREPARATION
As a coach, you can play a key role in
preventing concussions and responding to
them properly when they occur. Here are
some steps you can take to ensure the best
outcome for your athletes and the team:
• Educate athletes and parents about
concussion. Talk with athletes and their
parents about the dangers and potential
consequences of concussion.
For more information on longterm
effects of concussion, take the free
online training for coaches and parents:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION
Explain your concerns about concussion and your expectations of safe play to athletes, parents, and assistant coaches. Pass out the concussion fact sheets for athletes and for parents at the beginning of the season and again if a concussion occurs.
• Insist that safety comes first.
> Teach athletes safe playing techniques and encourage them to follow the rules of play.
> Encourage athletes to practice good sportsmanship at all times.
> Make sure athletes wear the right protective equipment for their activity (such as helmets, padding, shin guards, and eye and mouth guards). Protective equipment should fit properly, be well maintained, and be worn consistently and correctly.
> Review the athlete fact sheet with your team to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion.
Check with your youth sports league or administrator about concussion policies. Concussion policy statements can be developed to include the league’s commitment to safety, a brief description of concussion, and information on when athletes can safely return to play following a concussion (i.e., an athlete with known or suspected concussion should be kept from play until evaluated and given permission to return by a health care professional). Parents and athletes should sign the concussion policy statement at the beginning of the sports season.
• Teach athletes and parents that it’s not smart to play with a concussion. Sometimes players and parents wrongly believe that it shows strength and courage to play injured. Discourage others from pressuring injured athletes to play. Don’t let athletes persuade you that they’re “just fine” after they have sustained any bump or blow to the head. Ask if players have ever had a concussion.
• Prevent longterm problems. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first—usually within a short period of time (hours, days, or weeks)—can slow recovery or increase the likelihood of having longterm problems. In rare cases, repeat concussions can result in brain swelling, permanent brain damage, and even death.3, 4 Keep athletes with known or suspected concussion from play until they have been evaluated and given permission to return to play by a health care professional with experience in evaluating for concussion. Remind your athletes:“It’s better to miss one game than the whole season.”
ACTION PLAN WHAT SHOULD A COACH DO WHEN A CONCUSSION IS SUSPECTED? 1. Remove the athlete from play. Look for the signs and symptoms of a concussion if your athlete has experienced a bump or blow to the head. Athletes who experience signs or symptoms of concussion should not be allowed to return to play. When in doubt, keep the athlete out of play. 2. Ensure that the athlete is evaluated right away by an appropriate health care professional. Do not try to judge the severity of the injury yourself. Health care professionals have a number of methods that they can use to assess the severity of concussions. As a coach, recording the following information can help health care professionals in assessing the athlete after the injury: • Cause of the injury and force of the hit or blow to the head • Any loss of consciousness (passed out/ knocked out) and if so, for how long • Any memory loss immediately following the injury • Any seizures immediately following the injury • Number of previous concussions (if any)
3. Inform the athlete’s parents or guardians about the possible concussion and give them the fact sheet on concussion. Make sure they know that the athlete should be seen by a health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussion. 4. Allow the athlete to return to play only with permission from a health care professional with experience in evaluating for concussion. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first can slow recovery or increase the likelihood of having longterm problems. Prevent longterm problems by delaying the athlete’s return to the activity until the player receives appropriate medical evaluation and approval for return to play.
If you think your athlete has sustained a concussion… take him/her out of play, and seek the advice of a health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussion.
For more information and to order additional materials freeofcharge, visit: www.cdc.gov/ConcussionInYouthSports
Take the free online training for coaches at: www.cdc.gov/Concussion