Time counts when identifying and treating concussions. Of course parents, athletic trainers, and physicians are critical in improving concussion treatment. Yet, there is one individual who has been proven to be in the position to act the quickest: the coach.
According to The Sports Journal, “Research shows that detecting early signs of concussion can improve outcomes (Lovell, 2009); therefore, there is a need for a rapid screening test to assess athletes who may have a concussion (Galetta et al., 2011).”
To improve outcomes in our young athletes, the coach takes on a trusted role of:
Understanding athletes and the sports they play
Understanding the neurology of the injury
One without the other leaves room for “partial expertise.” Viewing the coach as a member of the concussion team is key, especially since, “a considerable amount of public schools in the United States do not employ certified athletic trainers.”
Most states have a concussion safety laws that ultimately, the responsibility of upholding the law falls on coaches. Nevada requires that an athlete who experiences a head injury:
(1) be immediately removed from the activity or event; and (2) may not return to the activity or event unless the parent or legal guardian of the pupil provides a written statement from a provider of healthcare indicating that the pupil is medically cleared to participate and the date on which the pupil may return to the activity or event.
Many of these state laws are new. Take for instance Colorado who enacted the Jake Snakenburg Youth Concussion Act in 2011. The law was created after the untimely death of young high school football athlete, Jake Snakenburg, who passed away in 2004 after receiving a second brain injury and not recovering from a previous one - called second impact syndrome.
In the Colorado law, the first action must be taken by a coach. “Youth athletes suspected by coaches to have sustained a concussion following an observed or suspected blow to the head or body must be immediately removed from the game, competition, or practice.”
Learn more here about your state law regarding concussion protocol safety and your role, whether it be a parent or coach, in keeping athletes safe on the field.
Coaches need to be supported by their administrators, parents, and athletic trainers to be a trusted partner in concussion safety as a first line of defense.