Before your young athletes hit the soccer or football fields to practice for their upcoming fall season, you need to talk with them about concussions. Concussions are a brain injury and can cause long-term damage. While more people are paying attention to head injuries – such as former University of Wisconsin star Chris Borman’s retirement from the NFL at age 24 because of concerns about head injuries – not everyone still understands just how serious they can be.
While most people associate concussions with football, they can also happen in other sports, including soccer and basketball. The most important thing to do if you suspect an athlete has a concussion is remove him or her immediately from the field of play. WIAA and most recreational coaches have gone through training about recognizing concussions and how important it is to remove a player from action. Athletic trainers can conduct several tests on the sidelines to look for signs of a concussion. Some signs we look for include:
- Appearing dazed and confused
- Moving slowly and clumsily
- Having trouble remember the opponent or the score
- Loss of consciousness
When in doubt, coaches are always advised to remove players from a game. If your son or daughter is pulled because a coach suspects a concussion, respect that decision and tell your child to do the same. It’s just one game and it’s better to be safe than sorry since going back into a game after a concussion can cause severe problems.
I advise every high school athlete to go through ImPACT testing, a computerized concussion evaluation system. Most schools require their athletes to go through the test, but if your child’s doesn’t or if they’re playing on a competitive team before high school, you can also go to ThedaCare Orthopedic Care to get the test. When an athlete takes the ImPACT testing, a baseline score is created. After an injury happens, the athlete can take another test to compare the results to get an idea of the damage caused by the concussion.
If your child is diagnosed with a concussion, it’s important to take it slow. Listen to the athletic trainer’s advice about what activities he can participate in. Even after your child starts feeling better, he can’t return to regular activities until a doctor gives her clearance. If an athlete goes back too soon, he is at risk of suffering a more serious injury.
Once an athlete is cleared to begin working out again, here is the progression trainers usually follow to help get a player up to speed:
- Day 1: Light exercise on bike or elliptical
- Day 2: Higher intensity exercise
- Day 3: Non-contact practice
- Day 4: Contact practice
- Day 5: Game
Concussions are a serious issue and it is important athletes take the time they need to recover from any head injury before returning to play.
Kayla Pfeiffer is a licensed athletic trainer with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care at ThedaCare Medical Center New London.