March 20, 2023
The latest MedStar Health survey* highlights significant injury concerns in the upcoming spring youth sports season. Following a series of highly publicized injuries in pro sports over the past year, the survey found that parents prioritize concussion safety.
According to parent respondents, 93 percent are concerned about concussions, and 91 percent believe youth sports coaches should be trained in concussion protocols and CPR; this compares to a 2019 study of parents, which found that only slightly more than half were worried about concussions.
“Parents realize that regardless of age, returning to a sport with concussion symptoms can lead to a more serious injury,” said Karen Laugel, MD, medical director of MedStar Health Concussion Clinics. “Youth sports coaches are often called upon to evaluate an injured athlete on the field and know when to refer them for medical care. Later, coaches may be asked to help supervise athletes through a ‘Return to Play’ protocol. No athlete should be allowed to return to contact sports without written medical clearance.”
Despite parents’ increased concerns, respondents had inconsistent knowledge of concussion protocols. The survey found that:
• Eighty-nine percent believe a person suffering from a concussion must stay awake, which is an outdated guideline. In general, sleep is healing.
• Sixty-five percent believe helmets prevent concussions, and almost half think concussions only occur from a direct hit to the head. Although helmets do not prevent concussions, they lower the risk of skull fracture and loss of consciousness and recommend if appropriately fitted.
• Thirteen percent believe an athlete can continue to play after a head injury if they don’t lose consciousness, yet most concussions do not involve loss of consciousness.
“If athletes aren’t aware of their concussion symptoms after a body blow, fall or hit to the head, they may think it’s safe to return to play. It’s critical that coaches, athletic trainers and parents discuss concussion symptoms with athletes before the season starts and encourage them to report symptoms and remove themselves from play. It’s difficult to come out of a game, and parents and coaches can support their athletes by showing them it’s the right thing to do.”
According to Laugel, most injured athletes who are removed from play experience temporary symptoms. However, if an injured child shows progressive signs like worsening headache, frequent vomiting, slurred speech, worsening imbalance, or increased confusion, parents or coaches should call 911 for transport to an emergency department. They can seek treatment from an urgent care clinic or primary care provider if symptoms are milder. The athlete can also be referred to a concussion clinic for continued care.