A concussion is a common pediatric and adolescent injury. While much attention is paid to adults who play professional sports, the majority of sports-related concussions happen in children and adolescents. For high school sports, about 1-in-20 to 1-in-30 athletes will sustain a concussion per season. This means that on average one to three players per team will sustain a concussion during the season.
As a youth sports coach, you are part of the first line of defense in recognizing a concussion and preventing further injury.
Concussion awareness is an important aspect of youth sports for many reasons. Coaches of youth sports should consider:
- Children and adolescents are not just little adults. Younger athletes can take longer to recover from concussion than their college or adult counterparts. This may mean keeping an athlete off the playing field for a longer period of time in order to reduce the risk that a second injury will occur before the child or adolescent has completely recovered from the first concussion.
- Many youth sports do not have access to an on-site team physician or athletic trainer. As a result, coaches must be responsible for the health and safety of their teams. Being able to recognize a possible concussion is an essential skill for coaches in order to keep your teams safe and healthy.
- Kids should never return to play on the same day that a suspected concussion has occurred. Once you suspect a concussion, your athlete is done for the day until he or she is evaluated by a medical professional who can determine when it is safe to return to the game.
Increase your concussion knowledge
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that affects the way the brain functions. Concussions used to be referred to as a “ding” or “having your bell rung,” and were brushed off as “no big deal” and a normal part of playing sports. However, we now know more about concussions and understand that any suspected concussion must be taken seriously.
What causes a concussion?
A concussion is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body where forces of the hit are transmitted to the head, causing the brain to literally shake inside the skull. It was once believed that a player had to lose consciousness or be “knocked out” to have a concussion. This is a not true! In fact, fewer than 10 percent of all players with concussions actually lose consciousness.
How is a concussion diagnosed?
Concussions are different from other sports injuries such as sprains, strains and broken bones, which are structural injuries that you can see with your eyes, feel with your hands or see on an X-ray. A concussion is a problem with function, not structure; therefore, concussions cannot be seen on a CT scan or MRI. A concussion is a disruption of how the brain works — and often an athlete with a concussion may look physically OK. What a concussion looks like is an athlete who is not functioning normally.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information for specific professions that provide support to youth affected by concussion: