The Positive Coach’s Approach to Concussions

2013-09-06T20:29:01-04:00Health & Safety, Protecting Your Kids|

This guest post is by David Jacobson of Positive Coaching Alliance, a national non-profit organization with the mission to transform the culture of youth sports so that youth athletes can have a positive, character-building experience.

The $765 million settlement struck in August in a class-action lawsuit against the NFL by more than 4,000 former players has heightened the profile on concussion. Never before has there been such a tipping point for a health issue related to sports…all sports, all ages.

At Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) — a national non-profit developing “Better Athletes, Better People” through youth and high school sports and a partner of SportsSignup — we share advice in a new segment on concussions we offer as part of live PCA workshops for youth and high school coaches.

Much of the advice derives from work by PCA National Advisory Board Member Dr. Gerard Gioia, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Neuropsychology at Children’s National Medical Center, where he directs the Safe Concussion Outcome, Recovery & Education (SCORE) Program.

Dr. Gioia, who also consults with the Center for Disease Control on its “Heads Up” concussion educational programs, will participate in “Concussion Considerations” — a PCA Google+ Hangout scheduled for live streaming and recording Monday, Sept. 9 at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific at – along with U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team Player Rachel Buehler, Former NFL Quarterback Scott Secules and other guests.)

The key message for coaches and parents who suspect concussion is: When in doubt, sit them out. But for that approach to be effective, coaches must understand what a concussion is.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth.

• That movement causes stretching of the brain, which leads to chemical changes and cell damage.

• Those changes disrupt how the brain works and produces signs and symptoms.

• Then the brain is more vulnerable to further injury and sensitive to increased stress.

How careful should coaches and parents be?

Very careful. Consider these statistics:

• Concussions manifest in many symptoms. Confusion, loss of consciousness, headache, nausea, dizziness and others are listed within fact sheets and other free downloads at  Any of them could be serious.

• Roughly 65-80% of initial concussions are missed.

• Half of all concussions are “indirect” (i.e., no direct impact to head).

• From 20-30% athletes say they are symptom free before their brains are actually healed by clinical standards.

What if a coach suspects a concussion?

• Remove the athlete from play.

• Ensure the athlete is evaluated by an appropriate health care professional. Do not try to judge the seriousness of the injury yourself.

• Inform the athlete’s parents or guardians about the known or possible concussion and give them the CDC’s fact sheet on concussion.

• Allow the athlete to return to play only with permission from an appropriate health care professional.

What if it’s a really important game and the athlete insists on returning to action?

Refocus away from the game to the athlete! The health of athlete trumps EVERYTHING!