Tips for Coaches, Athletic Trainers, and School Staff
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a brain movement injury that occurs when a person takes a blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move inside the skull.
Symptoms of a concussion include:
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty with concentration and/or memory
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in behavior or personality
What to do if you think someone might have sustained a concussion:
- If you think an athlete may have suffered a concussion due to a blow to the head or body, the athlete should be removed from play and evaluated.
- Athletes with a concussion have slower reflexes, poor balance and delayed reaction times. Because of this, continuing to participate in activities or playing with a concussion can be dangerous and lead to another brain injury, longer recovery, or additional musculoskeletal injury.
- Even if the athlete reports feeling fine initially, symptoms may develop hours or days after a brain injury. Therefore, if in doubt, sit it out!
- Most athletes who sustain concussions fully recover within a few weeks and are able to progressively return to regular activities within that time. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment and our approach is focused on individualized assessment and treatment. In order to fully resume sports or other activities, the athlete may be asked to complete a gradual return-to-play treatment process. Learn more about concussion treatment.
- As a coach or trainer, it’s important for you to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussion so you can protect athletes with a suspected concussion by removing them from risk. This also leads to faster evaluation by a medical professional to determine a definite diagnosis. If a concussion is suspected, California’s Education Code 49475 requires that the athlete be removed for the remainder of the game until evaluated and cleared.
Recognizing Sports Concussions in Athletes
- Fast recognition of concussion symptoms in student athletes is critical. Even if a player feels fine after a blow to the head or body, problems can develop hours or days after a brain injury.
- Athletes who sustain concussions need to rest in order to give their injured brains time to heal. Until your player receives clearance from a doctor, he or she must stop all sports participation and refrain from any activities that could potentially cause another bump to the head or body. These include biking, skateboarding and participating in school gym class. School work also may be restricted while the athlete recovers.
Pre-Season Baseline Testing for Athletes
- Baseline testing is important but not critical to diagnose a concussion, and should be considered for contact and high-risk sports such as football, soccer, lacrosse and hockey. In most cases, baseline testing is a part of the school’s pre-participation physical examination. Before the start of a sports season, players may undergo baseline testing to assess brain function, including:
- Learning and memory skills
- Problem solving abilities
- Reaction time
- Visual tracking
- Balance and more
- Should an athlete sustain a suspected concussion during a sports season, clinicians can compare this pre-season baseline information to post-injury test results to determine if there has been a significant change due to a concussion and to guide recommendations for rapid recovery.
Returning to Sports After a Concussion
Most athletes who sustain concussions fully recover within a few weeks and are able to progressively return to regular activities within that time. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment and our approach is focused on individualized assessment and treatment. Our concussion experts recommend a gradual return-to-play treatment process for injured athletes. Remember, your player must have a doctor’s approval before resuming sports or other activities.
Sports Concussions: Your Role as Coach or Athletic Trainer
California’s Education Code 49475 requires you to take action if a student may have suffered an injury. The law requires:
- Immediate removal of student athletes from activity if you suspect a player has sustained a concussion.
- Return to activity only after a medical professional trained in concussion diagnosis and treatment gives the okay.
In addition, coaches must provide student athletes and their parents with a brain injury information sheet every year before starting practice for the season. Both athletes and their parents must read and sign this document and then return it to the school.