From high school soccer to Little League, here is what coaches can do to make sports safer.
The positive impact coaches can make in the lives of young athletes is incredible. From hard work and discipline to demonstrating the value of teamwork, a good coach can be an instrumental element of childhood development. But as a coach, one of the most important aspects of running a team is creating a safe environment on and off the field—especially when it comes to concussions.
Because coaches are on the front lines, here is what coaches can do to promote concussion safety.
Explain the Symptoms
Oftentimes, children aren’t aware that some of the symptoms they might be experiencing are actually a serious brain injury. According to the Mayo Clinic, clear indicators of concussion are dizziness, confusion and a headache. If players have a more solid idea as to concussion symptoms, they will be more likely to notify you of a problem. Since 90% of concussions take place without the athlete losing consciousness, having the players report their own injuries can take away a lot of the guesswork.
Encourage Open Communication
It is not uncommon for children to be nervous about speaking up about a head injury, anxious about appearing weak or letting down their teammates by being taken out of the game. In fact, as many as seven in 10 young athletes with a possible concussion reported playing with concussion symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC advises offering positive reinforcement for athletes who report concussion symptoms.
Educate the Parents
It’s important to ensure that parents and coaches are both in sync when it comes to safe play and concussion reporting. Children should feel that concussion symptoms are to be taken seriously both on the field and at home. Make sure that parents know that concussions don’t just occur in contact sports like football. In fact, research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that while most concussions happen in football, hockey and rugby, they also occur in sports like soccer, lacrosse and baseball. Have a conversation with the parents regardless of the perceived concussion risk.
Enforce the Rules of the Game
In concussions reported among high school athletes, as many as 25 percent were the result of aggressive or illegal play, notes the CDC. Work with parents and players alike to ensure that all teammates follow regulation rules, such as avoiding illegal activity like striking other players in the head, using their helmet to contact other athletes and colliding with unprotected opponents. As a coach, you can lower your players’ concussion risk by following advice about sports conduct.