As student athletes crash around a field, arena or stadium, parents and faculty may feel at ease because students are outfitted in protective gear like helmets, which they trust will prevent harm. But in reality, serious injuries like concussions are plaguing student athletes at high rates, despite the regular use of protective gear. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost half a million kids are treated for traumatic brain injuries including concussions each year. To combat this rising statistic, school officials should be able to identify a concussion when it happens, help others learn to identify them and establish a management plan. Proper awareness begins with understanding the signs and symptoms that can arise with a concussion.
Recognizing the Signs & Symptoms
When a student hits their head in a game, they may stagger off the field complaining of a headache or “pressure” in their head. This is only one of many noticeable signs of a concussion that the CDC warns about. With head pain or “pressure” topping the list, symptoms include:
- Head pain or “pressure”
- Nausea or vomiting
- Trouble with balance or dizziness
- Blurry or double vision
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Numbness or tingling
- Not “feeling right”
In addition to these, there are more extensive symptoms that may occur, according to the CDC. These symptoms depend on the severity of the concussion and include:
- Difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating or remembering
- Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
- Feeling irritable, sad or more emotional than usual
- Feeling nervous
- Feeling drowsy or sleeping more than usual
- Having trouble falling asleep
Students who display any of these symptoms after sustaining a hit, blow or fall should be taken to a medical professional. There, the student can be diagnosed officially, and receive treatment. When identifying a concussion, medical professionals often look for these signs and symptoms:
- Appearing dazed or stunned
- Confusion about events
- Answering questions slowly
- Repeating questions
- Forgetting class schedule or assignments
- Being unable to recall events prior to or after they were hit, bumped or fell
- Losing consciousness (even briefly)
- Changes in mood, behavior or personality
Although medical professionals diagnose students with concussions, it’s up to school officials to teach students about them. Incorporating education is a key component to concussion prevention and management in schools.
Educate Students, Parents, Coaches, Faculty & Staff
For starters, the CDC recommends that school staff encourage safe play and rule following among student athletes as a way to help reduce concussion incidents. Also, providing protective equipment to students and ensuring they wear each piece helps reduce injury.
Students should not only wear each piece of gear but also understand why they are wearing it. This means educating the student population directly. According to the CDC, student athletes should know when to remove themselves from the playing field, if they suspect a concussion. Parents should also understand what a concussion is, how to recognize the symptoms, when to seek medical attention, how much recovery time is needed and how concussions affect school performance.
To educate students, parents, coaches, faculty and staff smoothly and effectively, a concussion management plan is needed.
Creating a Concussion Management Plan
The CDC recommends a plan that incorporates the following elements:
- Education and training for coaches, faculty, parents and athletes. For helpful resources and educational materials visit the CDC’s website.
- Provide protective equipment guidelines that indicate who should wear specific types of equipment and when. In addition to this, updating helmets with the newest head protection technology may be beneficial. Also, consider reconstructing or renovating athletic fields using materials that are designed to reduce the potential for and severity of injuries.
- Widely disseminate information that outlines the symptoms of concussions so everyone can recognize them.
- Consider doing baseline testing of student athlete’s brain function at the beginning of the season.
- Do the necessary planning and preparations for providing immediate treatment when a concussion occurs.
- Provide close medical monitoring, with medical evaluation requirements in the event of a concussion.
- Require medical clearance and document return-to-play guidelines to ensure athletes have fully recovered.
- Implement post-concussion management that includes required ongoing testing, post-concussion instructions, and guidance on how to handle multiple concussions for one athlete.
- Prevent Second Impact Syndrome. This occurs when an athlete returns to play too soon after a concussion.
Meeting State Requirements
According to the CDC, all 50 states have enacted youth concussion laws. Requirements of this law include:
- Mandatory removal from play
- Mandatory bench times
- Required medical clearance
- Required training/education for coaches, parents and athletes
- Informed consent of parents and athletes
Consulting an attorney can help ensure your concussion management plan is in accordance with the laws in your state.
Protecting Your School
The Hartford provides coverage specifically designed for private educational institutions to help protect your school, students and staff against the unique risks you face, including lawsuits related to concussions. Contact your local representative at The Hartford or visit our Education page for more information.
The information provided in these materials is intended to be general and advisory in nature. It shall not be considered legal advice. The Hartford does not warrant that the implementation of any view or recommendation contained herein will: (i) result in the elimination of any unsafe conditions at your business locations or with respect to your business operations; or (ii) will be an appropriate legal or business practice. The Hartford assumes no responsibility for the control or correction of hazards or legal compliance with respect to your business practices, and the views and recommendations contained herein shall not constitute our undertaking, on your behalf or for the benefit of others, to determine or warrant that your business premises, locations or operations are safe or healthful, or are in compliance with any law, rule or regulation. Readers seeking to resolve specific safety, legal or business issues or concerns related to the information provided in these materials should consult their safety consultant, attorney or business advisors. All information and representations herein are as of 4/19/18.