Stay Ahead of the Game: Don’t Play Through Suspected Concussions
As we prepare for another school year, in the wake of the Summer Olympics and with all the excitement of fall athletics, our focus again comes to sports and brain health. While we recognize that there are many positive aspects of physical activity and sports participation, we must also recognize the potential for injuries like concussions and both short- and long-term effects of these injuries.
Many organizations across the country are embarking on efforts to educate student-athletes, coaches, parents and teachers to recognize the common signs and symptoms of concussion, as well as the mantra “When In Doubt, Sit ‘em Out”. This seemingly simple statement reminds us to protect individuals with a suspected concussion from sustaining repeat injuries during the time when their brain is more vulnerable. Studies demonstrate that there is greater risk for both repeat concussion and musculoskeletal injury in the athlete who has not yet recovered from a concussion and returns to contact sports prematurely. More recent research suggests that athletes who play through symptoms or report symptoms later after a concussion take longer to recover and ultimately end up missing more school and more games.
It’s important to understand that there’s no single test on the sideline that accurately diagnoses concussion or mild traumatic brain injury. The goal, then, is to identify student-athletes suspected of concussion, remove them from contact risk and ensure that they get proper medical evaluation, follow-up and eventually re-integration to academic and athletic endeavors as rapidly and safely as possible.
And while education about concussions and sports safety is an important goal, the real objective is for that education to lead to positive behavior change among athletes in terms of concussion symptom reporting. With that goal in mind, the NCAA and Department of Defense have launched the Mind Matters Challenge to foster the development of educational interventions designed to improve concussion and brain safety behaviors in sports. MomsTEAM Institute’s SmartTeams™ #TeamUp4ConcussionSafety program is one of the evidence-based educational protocols which has been developed as part of the Challenge, and we look forward to seeing all the groups participating in the Challenge make progress in this important area.
Moving ahead this fall, it’s important to remember the 4 “Rs” of concussion: recognize, remove, recover and return to activity – start with recognizing signs of concussion and removing the athlete from contact risk.
Play safe, play smart!