What is being done to protect our players? Sometimes symptoms of a concussion are not immediately clear – the player could initially be fine, but symptoms could set in weeks, days, or even months after the initial impact. This is dangerous because if a player continues to play not knowing they have a serious brain injury, there is not only the possibility of a second concussion, but the player then becomes at risk for serious, long-term brain damage. In Pennsylvania, new legislation, clearance regulations, and required testing, are all programs that have been implemented to educate about concussion symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
With concussions among young players on the rise, Pennsylvania took action and soon passed legislation called the Safety in Youth Sports Act. This act, through three steps, takes a look at the serious repercussions of having a concussion, and focuses on what to do when a player is suspected of having one. The Safety in Youth Sports Act is designed to educate parents, student-athletes, and coaches. Coaches are required to take special classes and become certified on concussion protocol. Parents and student-athletes are required to read the mandatory information that is provided to them about concussions, and sign release forms for their children acknowledging the risks. Under the Safety in Youth Sports Act, legislators are hopeful that this act will educate all those involved – not just the coaches, but the parents and players as well.
The impact of just one concussion can result is serious brain damage if the head does not heal properly. Since a player who has suffered a concussion is three to six times more likely to suffer another, it is imperative that the player follows a strict clearance protocol to return to play. The Safety in Youth Sports Act now requires a student-athlete to be cleared by a medical professional, in writing, before he or she can return to play. The Center for Disease Control also requires special medical clearance by using a five-step program. Under this heavily monitored program, the athlete gradually increases exercises and activities until he or she is symptom free. Read more about the five steps and other requirements from the CDC.
Designed by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the ImPACT assessment is a successful tool in quickly determining if a player has a concussion. Players at the start of their season are required to take a basic cognitive test, to measure baseline brain function. If the player is suspected of having a concussion, then the athletes’ current cognitive abilities will be compared to their baseline test. Differences in results could indicate not only if the player has a concussion, but the severity as well. Read more about the ImPACT test and how it is measured and administered.