Dear Coaches and Athletes, Concussions are Serious!
As the news of sport-related concussions continues to spread across sport media, many coaches and athletes still aren’t convinced of the seriousness and potential effects of sustaining a concussion. Many professional athletes, such as Paul George of the Indiana Pacers, continue to play and compete in their respected sports, despite experiencing common symptoms of concussion. After game 2 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, George continued to play, despite blacking out and suffering from blurred vision. He was later diagnosed with a concussion and his status is uncertain from game 3 in Miami. Whether we know it or not, this type of attitude (continuing to play with a concussion) has a huge impact on younger athletes.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 3.8 million concussions occur in sports-related activities in the United States annually (Langlois, Rutland-Brown, & Wald, 2006). With millions of young athletes experiencing the effects of sport-related concussions each year, the need to effectively prevent, diagnose, and manage concussions is a major priority.
Both coaches and athletes should be reminded of the following information:
Concussions are serious injuries with a wide range of cognitive, somatic, and psychological symptoms that should be thoroughly examined. Many concussion symptoms often resolve as time goes by, but if not properly evaluated and managed, symptoms can be prolonged and potentially lead to life-altering consequences (Echemendia, 2012).
Many high school and youth athletes don’t understand the potential consequences of sustaining a concussion and usually ignore symptoms. Thus, a significant number of concussions are simply not reported to coaches or athletic trainers. Underreporting symptoms is a common practice and should be addressed with education strategies and effective screening tools.
Athletes should be reminded that achieving full recovery is crucial before returning to competition or practice (McGrath, 2010). Coaches who support athletes in being honest about persisting symptoms usually create clear communication channels between them and their team; this ultimately helps the athletes understand that accepting the short-term loss of playing time is a wiser choice than risking further damage (Guskiewicz et., 2003).
Numerous scientific studies have been published in the area of concussion education and management. Coaches, trainers, and athletes now know more about the short-term and potential long-term effects a concussion can have on a young athlete. Still, more work is needed in this area. Proper identification and detection of concussion symptoms continues to be an issue at the high school and youth sport levels.
The CDC identified multiple barriers that can hinder the recognition and management of concussion among coaches (Sarmiento, Mitchko, Klein, & Wong, 2010). Some of these barriers include: excessive competitiveness, viewing injuries as a sign of weakness, and underestimating the potential risks of concussions (Sarmiento et al., 2010). These barriers, along with other management issues can lead to problems in recognizing and managing concussions in athletes.
With concussions being labeled as a significant public health issue, there is an immediate need for concussion awareness, training, and management programs across the country. Widespread dissemination of knowledge has the potential to decrease the rate of concussions occurring in youth sports, as well as improve the current guidelines in place.