Preventing Concussions at School and in Sports

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Long-term concussion effects have become a major point of discussion for young athletes and school children in the last decade. Schools across the nation have implemented return-to-play protocols and have created school policies regarding how quickly children and teens with a concussion can return to regular school work.  

These policies are all based on the idea that a slow and cautious recovery leads to the best long-term outcome while reducing the possibility of long-term damage to a young person's brain.  

With all of this focus on treating concussions, you may be wondering - What can we do to prevent concussions in the first place? Fortunately, there are quite a few steps parents can take to help prevent their children and teens from getting a concussion while still allowing their children to participate in active play.

Get a Baseline Exam  

Several parts of a concussion exam look at cognitive performance.  The medical professional performing the exam will ask your child a series of questions designed to make your child think.  Each person is unique, and knowing how an individual does on the exam when they are not injured can show much more clearly how much their cognitive performance has declined after a blow to the head.

Your child's medical professional will be able to compare the results of any new tests to the beginning of the season test, which will ease diagnosing a concussion. It will also provide more detailed information so that your child's provider can give more specific recovery advice. 

Gathering baseline data may not directly prevent a concussion from occurring in the first place, but getting the exam will give you to talk about the risks and symptoms of concussions. 

Check Over Sport and Safety Equipment

At the beginning of a sports season or PE unit, it is important that any equipment is inspected to make sure it is still in good condition. Damaged safety padding, damaged helmets or even broken field equipment can lead to accidents or poor protection during play.  

There are several different ways that parents and players can help schools and coaches prevent concussions and other accidents by looking over equipment. Before the sports season, players or parent groups can get together to check all equipment and make sure it is in good and operable condition.  Parents can make sure that their children have uniforms and equipment that fit properly.  

Almost any riding sport or full contact body sport will require a safety helmet. It is particularly important to make sure that the right helmet is selected and that it is fitted properly. Many football concussions occur when a teen is wearing a helmet that is too large or not fastened or inflated to be tight enough.

 Parents can check with coaches to make sure that the sports and safety gear they purchase is the right type to provide protection, and that their sports-playing children understand how to wear it and that it is fitted properly.

Have Children and Teens Play Contact Sports With Others Their Own Age  

Having children of vastly different size or skill level playing contact sports against one another can be a recipe for injury. Many coaches and PE teachers are well aware of this and will take measures to create teams of similar playing abilities and size.  

Still, it is important for parents to be aware of this as a safety issue.  In areas with reduced school budgets or a small number of students to choose from, it may be tempting to expand the age range and abilities of students playing against one another. Instead, look at your particular sport and what else you have available to keep similar size and with similar abilities children and teens competing against one another.

Follow The Latest Safety Rules For Your Child's Sport

Sports-related brain injury and long-term effects is currently a busy field of research. New studies that suggest better ways to play sports while reducing the possibility of injury are leading sports organizations to update the rules of play. find out what the new rules are, and encourage your child to play by those rules all the time, whether it is team game or practice with friends.

For example, in 2015 U.S. Soccer created new rules that bar children under the age of 10 from heading the ball, and reducing heading for 10-13-year-olds. The new rules were created out of concern over a concussion. Encouraging your child to follow these guidelines all the time can reduce the risk of concussion.

Make Sure Children and Teens Know the Symptoms of Concussion  

Children and Teens may not let on to adults that they are experiencing concussions symptoms if they do not know how serious it could be or they just want to continue playing. Make sure that your child is familiar with the signs of a concussion.  

Check to make sure that your child understands that concussions are serious injuries with potential life-threatening outcomes if they are not properly treated. Letting your child know that getting a concussion means they will need to sit out from play and school work, they will be extremely limited as to what they can do during recovery, and that receiving a second concussion while still recovering from a first concussion can lead to a very slow recovery or even death.

Talking with your child or teen about concussions and possible long-term effects could be one of the most important steps for preventing concussion.  When your child or teen understand what they could lose by getting a concussion they will have a reason to comply with safety rules and proper use of safety equipment.  

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