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Drew: Concussion awareness and keeping young athletes safe

By Samuetta Hill Drew

September is a month that marks the ending and beginning of various traditional events for many Americans, starting with the onset of the Labor Day weekend.  This weekend customarily marks the end of summer and the beginning of a new season – fall. A new season which ushers in the beginning of a new school year for millions of children across the U.S. This is evident during drive time traffic with the influx of additional vehicles and big yellow school buses.

Yes, September marks the beginning of school and school related activities. One of these activities is the most popular American sport – football. A sport that is widely attended and often even televised. This popular sport has become a billion-dollar enterprise. Weekly, fans cheer as their favorite teams/players compete.

While the cheerleaders cheer and bands play, the players run on the field at high rates of speed, tackling each other, making all types of very physical contact plays because football is truly a contact sport. With the physicality of contact in football, concussions have become a recent and vital concern for its players. These recent concerns have prompted new concussion protocols intended to help protect the players.
With these recent safety measures, a day dedicated to concussion awareness is now nationally recognized. September 16 is National Concussion Awareness Day.

One of the main jobs for a youth sports coach is keeping athletes safe. Unfortunately, some student athletes may try to hide concussion symptoms. It has been reported among a group of almost 800 high school athletes that 69 percent reported playing with concussion symptoms and 40 percent of these athletes said their coach was not aware that they had a possible concussion.

Student athletes said they may be less likely to tell their coach or athletic trainer about a possible concussion during a championship game or other important events. Therefore, it is essential for parents, guardians, and other appropriate adults to understand and know the symptoms of a concussion, as well. So, one may ask “How can I determine a possible concussion?”

Below are some signs observed by coaches, parents, guardians, and other appropriate adults:

• appears dazed or stunned.
• forgets an instruction, is confused about an assignment or position, or is unsure of the game, score, or opponent.
• moves clumsily.
• answers questions slowly.
• loses consciousness (even briefly).
• shows mood, behavior, or personality changes.
• cannot recall events prior to or after a hit or fall.

Athletes may show or report one or more of these listed signs and symptoms. They may also say something such as “I don’t feel right” after a bump, or jolt to the head or body. This may be another sign of a concussion or other serious brain injury.
To help Keep an Eye on Safety for your student athlete, it is also important to note that some symptoms and signs are prevalent initially where others may not be noticed or show up for hours or days. We will continue to explore this topic during next week’s safety article.