Football safety is always of upmost importance. In fact, it’s one of the biggest concerns to parents, players, and coaches. At My Football Mentor we want you to be educated on how you can prevent injuries and how to recognize them when they happen. Let’s first look at concussions.
The brain is made of soft tissue and is cushioned by spinal fluid. It is encased in the hard, protective skull. When a person gets a head injury, the brain can move around inside the skull and even bang against it. This can lead to bruising of the brain, tearing of blood vessels, and injury to the nerves. When this happens, a person can get a concussion — a temporary loss of normal brain function. Most people with concussions recover just fine with appropriate treatment. But it’s important to take proper steps if you suspect a concussion because it can be serious.
Concussions and other brain injuries are fairly common. About every 21 seconds, someone in the United States has a serious brain injury. One of the most common reasons people get concussions is through a sports injury. High-contact sports such as football, boxing, and hockey pose a higher risk of head injury, even with the use of protective headgear.
People can also get concussions from falls, car accidents, bike and blading mishaps, and physical violence, such as fighting. Guys are more likely to get concussions than girls. However, in certain sports, like soccer, girls have a higher potential for concussion.
The signs of concussion are not always well recognized. And because of that, teens may put themselves at risk for another injury. For example, players may return to a game before they should, or a skateboarder may get back on the board and continue skating, thinking nothing’s wrong. That’s a problem, because if the brain hasn’t healed properly from a concussion and someone gets another brain injury (even if it’s with less force), it can be serious.
Repeated injury to the brain can lead to swelling, and sometimes people develop long-term disabilities, or even die, as a result of serious head injuries. So it’s really important to recognize and understand the signals of a concussion.
Although we may think of a concussion as someone losing consciousness (passing out), a person can have a concussion and never lose consciousness.
-seeing stars and feeling dazed, dizzy, or lightheaded
-memory loss, such as trouble remembering things that happened right before and after the injury
-nausea or vomiting
-blurred vision and sensitivity to light
-slurred speech or saying things that don’t make sense
-difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
-difficulty with coordination or balance (such as being unable to catch a ball or other easy tasks)
-feeling anxious or irritable for no apparent reason
-feeling overly tired
Check the victim for mental awareness. Failing this test means a trip to the ER as soon as possible. Ask questions, such as:
– “What is your name?”
– “Where are you?”
– “What happened to you?”
Check the victim’s eyes. If you have a flashlight, shine the light into their eyes. Do their eyes focus on the light and the pupils react correctly? The pupils of the eyes focused completely on light should constrict (grow smaller). If there is no response or they have irregular eye movements, suspect a head injury, stroke, or serious ailment.
Watch for vomiting. That is red flag for someone who was believed to be fine, but has now slid into danger.
Keep the player awake for a period of time after the injury to see if they are worsening. Sleepiness, or difficulty wakening can be another red flag that things are not good.
There are different grades of concussion:
Someone with a grade 1 concussion can have some of the symptoms listed above, but with no loss of consciousness and with symptoms ending within 15 minutes.
With a grade 2 concussion, there has been no loss of consciousness but the symptoms last longer than 15 minutes.
In a grade 3 concussion, the person loses consciousness — even if it’s just for a few seconds.
Knowing the different grades is important because how soon a player can safely return to a sports activity is tied to the grade of the concussion:
With a grade 1 concussion, the player can resume play once symptoms have stopped. However, that player should stop play if he or she gets another head injury.
A grade 2 concussion requires that a player stop playing and not return to any type of sport or physical activity that could cause a head injury for at least another week.
Someone with a grade 3 concussion should see a doctor as quickly as possible.
What should you do if a friend or teammate has a concussion? Tell an adult or coach immediately. Even if the concussion seems mild, the player should sit out for the rest of the game. If the symptoms are severe (such as seizures or a very long period of unconsciousness) or they seem to be getting worse, that’s an indication of a serious head injury. Get medical help right away.
If a doctor suspects that someone may have a concussion, he or she will ask about the head injury — such as how it happened and when — and the symptoms. The doctor may ask what seem like silly questions — things like “Who are you?” or “Where are you?” or “What day is it?” and “Who is the president?” Doctors ask these questions to check the person’s level of consciousness and memory and concentration abilities.
The doctor will perform a thorough examination of the nervous system, including testing balance, coordination of movement, and reflexes. The doctor may ask the patient to do some activity such as running in place for a few minutes to see how well the brain functions after a physical workout.
Sometimes a doctor may order a CT scan (a special brain X-ray) or an MRI (a special non-X-ray brain image) to rule out bleeding or other serious injury involving the brain.
If the concussion isn’t serious enough to require hospitalization, the doctor will give instructions on what to do at home, like having someone wake the person up at least once during the night. If a person with a concussion cannot be easily awakened, becomes increasingly confused, or has other symptoms such as vomiting, it may mean there is a more severe problem that requires contacting the doctor again.
The doctor will probably recommend that someone with a concussion take acetaminophen or other aspirin-free medications for headaches. The person also will have to take things easy at school or work.
After a concussion, the brain needs time to heal. It’s really important to wait until all symptoms of a concussion have cleared up before returning to normal activities. The amount of time someone needs to recover depends on how long the symptoms last. Healthy teens can usually resume their normal activities within a few weeks, but each situation is different. A doctor will monitor the person closely to make sure everything’s OK.
Someone who has had a concussion and has not recovered within a few months is said to have postconcussion syndrome. The person may have the same problems described earlier — such as poor memory, headaches, dizziness, and irritability — but these will last for longer periods of time and may even be permanent.
If someone has continuing problems after a concussion, the doctor may refer him or her to a rehabilitation specialist for additional help.
Some accidents can’t be avoided. But you can do a lot to prevent a concussion by taking simple precautions:
1. Always wear a snug fitting helmet that does not move around the players head. Many concussions occur because of helmets that are improperly fitted so it is important to have a certified athletic trainer fit the helmets rather than players or coaches.
2. Wear the proper mouth guard. If a football player is hit near the chin or jaw, the mouth guard will absorb most of the shock of the blow and help prevent the player from losing consciousness. A loss of consciousness after a blow to the face can signal a concussion.
3. Reinforce the importance of the proper tackling technique. Instruct players to lead with the body when tackling and not the head to cut down on the chance of getting a concussion. Remember: “Tail DOWN, head UP, wrap the arms.”
4. Strictly enforce helmet contact rules that restrict the types of tackles that can cause concussions such as face-to-face tackling and spearing. Enforcing these rules helps prevent players from making illegal tackles and lessens the instances of concussions.
5. Put all the odds in your favor and get the best helmet for your player. With so much resent research, helmet manufactures and have developed some state of the art technology that makes a difference in high impact situations.
Preventing concussions is mostly common sense. The best thing you can do to protect your head is to use it!