With the current COVID-19 restrictions, we are all anxious about our children returning to school and sports. When they do get back on the ice, fields, and courts, we want them to be able to safely play the sports they love. Parents, coaches and young athletes should all be aware of the signs and symptoms of concussion. We spoke with Dr. Elizabeth M. Pieroth, a Board-Certified Neuropsychologist and the Director of the Concussion Program at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and Rush University Medical Center and the consultant to professional sports teams including the Chicago Blackhawks, about this important topic.
What is a concussion?
A concussion can occur with any blow or force to the head that causes mental status changes; disorientation, confusion, memory loss, slowness in thinking. Concussions occur in both boys and girls and can happen in all sports. You do not need to lose consciousness to have suffered a concussion.
What are the signs and symptoms?
The signs are those things that are observed by others – such as coaches, parents, or teammates. The symptoms are those things reported by an athlete. See chart below for list of signs and symptoms.
What can parents and coaches do to prevent concussions?
It’s impossible to completely prevent concussions, but there are steps parents can take to keep their children safer while playing sports. First, talk to your child’s coach about how he/she handles safety issues. Has the coach been trained in concussion prevention? Do they have an emergency action plan to respond to injuries? Does he/she know how to spot and respond to a concussion? If not, encourage him/her to take the free, online Heads Up Course offered by the CDC. Are the coaches avoiding drills or moves that risk concussions? Are they encouraging fair play and enforcing the rules? Additionally, make sure your child’s equipment fits properly and that he/she wears the right equipment for every practice and game.
What should parents do if they think their child has suffered a concussion?
The first thing to do is to remove the child from practice or the game immediately. As the saying goes, “When in doubt, sit them out.” Next, call a medical professional to talk about the diagnosis and treatment. Research has demonstrated that the earlier an injured person is seen by a concussion specialist, the sooner they recover so consider a referral to a local concussion specialist.
Why should kids play sports?
There are so many wonderful benefits for children, including: physical activity, self-discipline, friendships with teammates and increased self-esteem. We want our kids to be engaged in sports, but safety must always be the first priority.