Many high school and college sports teams are already practicing for the fall season. So now is a good time to be mindful of the dangers of concussions, and watch for signs of injury that often can be hard to recognize.

Also, the state recently enacted a law requiring all athletic coaches to take a certified course on concussion awareness and pass a test no later than July 1, 2017.

Whether you’re a player, parent, coach or trainer, our goals are the same:

  • Recognize that a concussion has occurred.
  • Remove the athlete from activity.
  • Treat the athlete.
  • Determine when it is safe to return to activity.

A concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury that can happen when there is direct or indirect force to the head. It is usually the result of a player making contact with another player or with an object – anything from a goal post to a ball. But even simply falling down can cause a concussion. Symptoms can last a few minutes to days, weeks and even months or longer.

Someone who has suffered a concussion may seem stunned or confused, or not be aware of their immediate surroundings. They may have trouble keeping their balance or remembering things that happened just before or after the injury. They can lose consciousness, even for a moment, or demonstrate personality changes. They may feel pain, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, sensitivity to light or noise, numbness/tingling or irritability.

If not properly treated, concussions can even result in permanent mental difficulties, such as the early development of dementia.

If a concussion is suspected, the most immediate requirement is to remove the player from play. Have them properly assessed by a healthcare provider – right away on the field with a trainer, if possible, but also with a trained physician afterward. This assessment should include neurocognitive testing such as ImPACT, a computerized test that documents an athlete’s cognitive and speed skills. (See more below.) This will help determine the proper treatment method.

Repeat head injuries, even minor in nature, can have devastating long-term impact. So a player should not be allowed to return to play until they have been cleared to do so.

Don’t just go by what you observe on the field. A blow to the head that may seem innocuous from the sideline can easily result in a concussion. Always err on the side of caution as teams gear up for games this autumn.

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