The consensus statement recently issued by a panel of international experts in the field of sports concussions1 calls education of athletes, game officials, parents, coaches and healthcare providers in the detection of concussion, its signs and symptoms, assessment techniques and principles of safe return to play (RTP) a "mainstay" for progress in the] field of concussion safety, and urges use of a variety of methods, including web-based resources, in delivering concussion information.
One of the best ways to educate young athletes (high school level and younger) and their parents about concussions is for the coach to hold a concussion education and safety meeting before every season.
Ideally, the meeting should include presentations by:
1. Medical doctors familiar with the evaluation of concussions and principles of safe RTP to educate parents on the important role they play in their child's recovery from a suspected concussion, especially in terms of:
- checking for signs of deteriorating mental status requiring immediate hospitalization,
- the need for their child to limit exertion with activities of daily living and to limit scholastic and other cognitive stressors (e.g. text messaging, video games etc.) while experiencing concussion symptoms, and, in some instances, modify school attendance and activities to avoid making symptoms worse,
- monitoring for continuing signs and symptoms of concussion, all of which must clear completely before an athlete should be allowed to return to play, and
- educating their child about the dangers they face if they fail to report symptoms or begin playing again before symptoms have cleared.
2. Former athletes who can share personal stories about the consequences of continuing to play with concussion symptoms and/or the long-term health consequences of multiple concussions, such as reoccurring headaches, depression, and concentration and memory problems.
3. Parents of concussed athletes who can emphasize how critical it is that, in making the all-important return-to-play decision, parents put a child's long term future and well-being above short-term athletic success; that parents constantly evaluate, along with their child if she is old enough, whether the risk of chronic major depression or early signs of Alzheimer's down the road may make ending a career the best choice.