Approach fall sports with caution, common sense about head injuries

September 03, 2010

Fall sports ,like football, lacrosse, and soccer, bring risk of concussion injuries to Maryland students. Recent media attention has been brought to the increasing number of concussions being treated at emergency departments across the country. New research is pointing to the risk of permanent brain injury for children with concussions. It is important players, parents, trainers, game officials, and coaches know what to look for and how to treat a child with a concussion.

Coaches and athletic trainers must especially keep informed of the latest developments in post concussion treatment as o-going research is changing how the "game is played." Players suspected of concussion should never be permitted to return to the field. Everyone involved with a child in sports must know how to recognize a concussion and suspect head injury when those symptoms are observed. Coaches must be informed if a player has had a previous concussion prior to participation in a sport.

What else should you do? Make sure your child is aware of what to look for in his or her team mates. Players are often the first to observe a change in the behavior or orientation of other players. They must let a coach or official know when any change in the behavior or orientation of another player is observed. Coaches and trainers must frequently review recommendations for the treatment of children with potential head injuries. Using good quality and well-fitting safety equipment is a must.

A concussion injury can be hard to detect. It may not be readily apparent to b-standers that a player even sustained a blow to the head. Seemingly minor or vague symptoms, such as dizziness, headache, or nausea and vomiting are sometimes the only indication that a player has received a concussion. These injuries are never "minor" and require evaluation from a health care professional and careful follow-up. Symptoms may not be noticed for days or weeks after the event. Research shows that rest following a concussion is especially important for children. Returning to play too soon following an injury may result in permanent damage to the brain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/injury) has excellent information about the prevention, recognition, and treatment of concussion. The website has on-line training available for coaches and trainers. In addition, there is valuable information for players and parents about the recognition and treatment for athletes with a concussion.

Keep your athlete safe by reacting appropriately to concussions. When in doubt get them off the playing field and evaluated by health care professionals.

H. Kevin Knussman, Easton

The writer is a paramedic and the public information officer for the Caroline County Department of Emergency Services.

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