“Are you ready for some football?” My 10-year old son certainly is! And while the very idea of having him play football makes me a bit nervous- he couldn’t be more excited about his first season of tackle football. And part of the reason that I am a bit jittery about the whole idea, is that I am worried about the possibility of concussions in this type of a contact sport. Just last year, two kids from my older son’s soccer team suffered concussions and both boys missed weeks of play and in one case several weeks of school while he recovered. So when I came across the opportunity to attend a “Heads Up” event sponsored by the NFL and USAFootball recently, I jumped at the chance! I knew that I had a lot to learn about concussion safety when it comes to kids sports.
#1- What exactly IS a concussion?
#2- How do I know if my child has suffered a concussion?
“To help recognize a concussion, you should watch for the following two things among your athletes:
- A forceful bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body that results in rapid movement of the head.
- Any change in the athlete’s behavior, thinking, or physical functioning.
Athletes who experience any of the signs and symptoms listed below after a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body should be kept out of play the day of the injury and until a health care professional, experienced in evaluating for concussion, says they are symptom-free and it’s OK to return to play.”
#3- “When in Doubt, Sit Them Out”
The first line of defense are trusting our coaches to know when to “bench” our kids during a game because they witnessed the hit and they recognize that there is a change in the child’s behavior or functioning. If there is any doubt whatsoever about whether a player may have sustained a concussion, that player needs to sit out of the game. Period.
Are you concerned that your child’s coach may not have the latest information on concussions and youth sports? Print this or email them this link to a detailed fact sheet specifically created for coaches by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/pdf/coaches_Engl.pdf.
#4- Kids shouldn’t be afraid to tell their coach that they are injured
So often in the past, parents and coaches told kids to “toughen up” or “shake it off” when they were hurt, and encouraged players to get back in the game. And over time, kids internalized this message and just stopped admitting to coaches that they were injured. It is time to change this mindset in kids sports, and it needs to start with parents and coaches telling kids that it is important to let us know when they are injured. As underscored by Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL, “The number one thing we need to tell our kids is to not be afraid to raise their hands and say that they have an injury”.