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Drew: What to do if an Athlete Suffers Possible Concussion

By Samuetta Hill Drew

Professional and school football are all underway. Millions of people are either glued to different television stations on Sunday, Monday and/or Thursday nights or seated in the stands on Friday nights or on any given Saturday. Yes, the fans are often tailgating as they watch their favorite professional or school team play. The football athletes are playing at optimum levels weekly.

As one of those faithful fans, I weekly see a penalty flag dropped after a play for possible targeting. Targeting is one of football’s most controversial rules. Some people dislike it entirely, others want adjustments made, while others do not quite understand it. According to the NFL rule book, targeting occurs if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. The rule’s intent is to help prevent concussions.

Last week’s safety article highlighted the signs of a possible concussion and this week’s safety article will review steps to take if you think an athlete has a possible concussion. Let’s start with if you are a coach. As a coach you should remove the athlete from play. When in doubt, sit them out. Keep an athlete with a possible concussion out of play on the same day of the injury and until cleared by a health care provider.

It is important to point out that studies indicate that nine out of 10 adults in the United States cannot correctly define concussion. Unfortunately, up to 50 percent of concussions go undiagnosed and untreated. A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury, and one does not have to lose consciousness to have a concussion. This is why it is vitally important not to tell athletes phrases such as “shake it off” or “play through it.” A bump or blow to the head can have serious consequences.

Do not try and judge the severity of the injury yourself. Only a health care provider should assess whether an athlete has a possible concussion. Once a player is removed from practice or play because of a possible concussion, the decision about returning to practice or play should be a medical one that is made by a health care provider.

It is essential never to discount a possible concussion. If it is a student athlete, the parents should be informed. A Fact Sheet outlining possible signs and symptoms to watch for will be helpful to provide to the parents along with the notification.

Because concussions can have such serious consequences, it is vital that all appropriate parties involved with the sport of football – from the parents, athletes, school and athletic staff – Keep an Eye on Safety.