Gerard Gioia, PhD, is the Division Chief of Neuropsychology and the director of the Safe Concussion Outcome, Recovery & Education (SCORE) Program at Children’s National. He treats people with brain injuries with dual areas of interest in disorders involving the executive functions and pediatric concussion/ mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). He shared in the Rise and Shine blog hat with all the current media attention given to concussions, it is hard not to be worried and question your child’s involvement in sports, especially contact sports. As a society, we want our children to be active, stay healthy and enjoy the positive benefits of team sports. While there is a risk in playing any sport, the benefits will likely far outweigh the risks if coached and played with concussion prevention in mind.
Once a child chooses the sport they want to play, parents must do their homework and ask the leagues and coaches questions about how they handle head safety.
Below are 10 questions I encourage parents to ask youth sports organizations to make sure they’re minimizing the risk of concussion in their players. Youth sports organizations should also prepare themselves to answer these questions.
- Does the league have a policy on how they handle concussions?
- Who is responsible for the sideline concussion recognition and response to suspected concussions during practice and games? Is there an assigned person?
- Does the league have access to healthcare professionals with knowledge and training in sport-related concussions?
- Are the coaches required to take a concussion education and training course?
- Are the coach’s tools (concussion signs and symptoms cards, clipboards, fact sheets, smartphone apps, etc.) readily available during practice and games to guide proper recognition and response of a suspected concussion? Children’s National has a free mobile application called “Concussion Recognition & Response” to assist coaches and parents in asking the right questions and doing the right thing if they suspect a concussion.
- Does the league provide and/or encourage concussion education for parents, and what is the policy for informing parents of suspected concussions?
- What is the policy regarding allowing a player to return to play? (Correct answer should be ONLY when a medical professional provides written clearance that the athlete is fully recovered.)
- Does the league teach coaches and players proper techniques, such as blocking and tackling in football, in ways that are “head safe,” by not putting the head in position to be struck?
- If it is a contact sport, are there limitations to the amount of contact? How often will your child practice live contact? Is that any different than past years?
- How amenable is the league, team, and/or coach to accepting feedback from parents about their child’s safety as it relates to head safety?
Asking these questions will provide the peace of mind of knowing your child is playing the sports they enjoy in the safest way possible to minimize risk of concussion.
Football Photo by Amina Filkins: https://www.pexels.com/photo/smiling-ethnic-boy-in-helmet-and-uniform-of-football-player-5559992/
Baseball photo from Pexels.