Each year more than 750,000 Americans are injured during recreational sports. Brain injuries cause more deaths than any other sports injury. Too often, concussions are untreated because few symptoms are visible to casual observers. In addition, an athlete may experience considerable pressure from spectators, teammates and coaches to resume playing. Multiple concussions over time may result in cumulative damage while repeated concussions over a short period may lead to Second Impact Syndrome.
Signs of Brain Injury
Whenever an individual loses consciousness, the brain has suffered an injury. However, most brain injuries do not involve loss of consciousness. Therefore, it is essential for a coach to keep a player out of a game where there are any signs or symptoms of a concussion.
The term “concussion” is often used in the medical literature as a synonym for a mild traumatic brain injury. If a concussion is managed appropriately, the prognosis for complete recovery is good. The hallmarks of concussion are confusion and amnesia, often without preceding loss of consciousness. The amnesia generally involves loss of memory for the traumatic event but frequently includes loss of recall for events immediately before or after the head trauma. An athlete with amnesia may be unable to recall details about recent plays in the game or details of well-known current events in the news. Amnesia also may be evidenced by an athlete repeatedly asking a question that has already been answered.
The Rutgers SAFETY Clinic course was upgraded in July 2011 to include training on sports concussions. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) prepared a free online training program that produces a certificate upon successful completion of the course. All coaches, referees and other officials involved in sports activities should be required to complete at least one of these or a similar course and submit the documentation for the town’s records. Parents are also be encouraged to take a course.
The head is involved in more baseball injuries than any other body part. Almost half of the injuries involve a child’s head, face, mouth or eyes. The leading cause of injury and death is being hit by the ball; second leading cause is collision.
In any given season 10 percent of all college players and 20 percent of high school players sustain brain injuries. Football players with brain injuries are six times as likely to sustain new injuries.
- Match players (size, weight, and training) in contact drills.
- Limit tackling and blocking routines during practice.
- Emphasize “keeping the head out of football.” No butt-blocking using your head.
- Teach proper techniques and rules for safety. Never face/head tackle!
- Train consistently and properly. This includes doing exercise recommended for strengthening the neck and shoulder muscles
- About five percent of soccer players sustain brain injuries. This may occur from head to head contact, falls or being struck by the ball on the head.
- Heading or hitting the ball with the head is the riskiest activity when done repeatedly. The risk is greater if a small child uses too large a ball. Heading the ball, especially by younger players should be discouraged.
- Girls are injured playing soccer more often than boys.
- Collision with other players should be discouraged and avoided.
- Younger teams should use the appropriate size and weight ball during practice and play.
- Goal posts should be padded and properly anchored to the ground.
“Janet’s Law” requires public schools to have automated external defibrillators (AED) for youth athletic events.
- All public and non-public schools are required to have an AED by September 1, 2014.
- The AED shall be located within reasonable proximity of the gym or athletic field.
- The AED must be available in an unlocked location with an identifying sign.
- The AED must be accessible during the school day and any other time a school sponsored athletic event or practice is taking place.
- A coach, trainer, staff member, EMT or first responder trained in CPR/AED must be present during the event or practice.
- Schools must develop an Emergency Action Plan for responding to sudden cardiac arrest events. This plan must include; who gets the AED, who calls 9-1-1, who starts CPR and uses the AED, and who assists rescuers getting to the victim.