While anywhere from 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s estimated that nearly half of athletes (47 percent) who suffer concussive blows don’t report their symptoms.
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If you have children in sports, it’s important for you, as a parent, as well as them, to know the signs of a concussion and the laws that protect young athletes.
Young people often don’t take symptoms seriously
After a blow to the head, young athletes may be unaware or even ignore the most common symptoms as a simple headache or dizziness. Yet the danger can be considerable and even potentially life-threatening if an athlete with a concussion continues to play or receives a second hit before he or she has fully recovered from the first impact.
Besides headaches and dizziness, concussions can lead to nausea, blurry vision, trouble focusing and concentrating, mental “fatigue,” depression, or changes in sleep patterns. What may surprise you is that fewer than 10 percent of sport-related concussions actually involve a loss of consciousness.
Also, while people most often think of football as high risk for concussion, which is true for male athletes, they may not realize that soccer is the highest risk sport for concussion among female athletes.
Some studies even suggest that females are twice as likely to sustain a concussion as males when playing the same sport, such as soccer and basketball.
Concussion legislation across the nation
To protect young athletes, concussion legislation has been passed in forty-eight states in recent years – all part of the shift that has put the spotlight on sports concussions.
According to the CDC, most concussion in sports laws include three action steps:
- Educate Coaches, Parents, and Athletes: Inform and educate coaches, athletes, and their parents and guardians about concussion through training and/or a concussion information sheet.
- Remove Athlete from Play: An athlete who is believed to have a concussion is to be removed from play or practice right away and is not permitted to return to play that same day.
- Obtain Permission to Return to Play: An athlete can only return to play or practice after at least 24 hours and with permission from an authorized health care professional.
Ohio concussion law passes
In the last few months, Ohio has joined the ranks by passing a law to keep kids safer after suffering from this typically short-lived brain injury that is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head.
Ohio House Bill 143, which went into effect in late April, 2013, does the following:
- Mandates that parents and athletes submit a signed letter stating they received and reviewed a concussion information sheet prior to their athletic participation.
- Requires that an athlete be removed immediately from play by coaches, referees or officials if he or she displays any signs or symptoms of a concussion during practice or a game.
- Prohibits student-athletes who are removed from a game for a suspected concussion from returning to play on the same day.
- States that athletes cannot return to play until they are properly evaluated and receive written clearance from a physician or another authorized healthcare provider.
- Requires that coaches and referees involved in interscholastic sports hold a pupil activity permit (PAP) from the Ohio Department of Education. The PAP includes a mandatory training program for concussion and concussion recognition.
This new law ensures that if there is a suspected concussion, the young athlete is immediately pulled out of play. It also ensures proper evaluation by an authorized healthcare professional prior to returning to play.
“There is growing evidence that undiagnosed, unrecognized or poorly treated concussions can significantly prolong the recovery period. This can take anywhere from the expected short, one- to two-week recovery to months or possibly even longer,” says Richard Figler, MD, a Cleveland Clinic primary care sports and exercise medicine physician and concussion specialist. “This new law is meant to protect the athlete.”
He adds, “If children play sports, they should know the signs and symptoms of concussion. When in doubt, they should sit it out. I tell young athletes, ‘you only get one brain — protect it.’”
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From the CDC: Free online concussion course for youth and parents