How to help your student athlete avoid concussions

Safety | August 29, 2019
Be on the alert for these subtle signs and symptoms of this common head injury

Sports injuries are a common safety concern for school-age athletes. And concussions, which affect tens of thousands of kids in the U.S. each year, are among the most serious. These brain injuries can be especially dangerous—even deadly—if a second concussion occurs before the first has enough time to heal.

Safety first

Fortunately, you can take the lead in reducing the risk of concussions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these four tips:

  1. Verify that your child’s school, league, or district has a concussion policy. It’s important to make sure coaches know how to recognize and deal with these injuries, which includes working with a healthcare professional to determine when it’s safe for athletes to return to play.
  2. Emphasize to your child the importance of following the rules of the game and the coach’s rules for safety.
  3. Encourage your child to practice good sportsmanship.
  4. Make sure your child wears appropriate protective equipment. Helmets are a must for riding activities, such as cycling or skateboarding, or collision sports, such as football or ice hockey. They help reduce the risk of a serious brain injury or skull fracture. Be aware, however, that helmets are not designed to prevent concussions. That’s why your child needs to avoid hits to the head as much as possible.

Signs and symptoms

Athletes who sustain a concussion may not realize it or may insist they’re fine.

“It’s important for parents and coaches to be on alert for changes in behavior and other symptoms,” says Leslie Pelinka, MD, a PeaceHealth pediatrician. “The signs can be very subtle, and they don’t always immediately follow the injury. Sometimes it’s several days before symptoms can be recognized and felt.” Possible symptoms your child might report include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance or vision problems
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Signs you might recognize in your child include:
  • Dazed appearance
  • Confusion or forgetfulness
  • Clumsy movement
  • Slow response when asked questions
  • Change in mood, behavior, or personality
  • Loss of consciousness

If you think your child might have a concussion, get medical help. Doctors can evaluate your child and determine what the next steps should be.