Every parent of a child playing contact or collision sports has the right to expect that:
- A concussion education and safety meeting is held for parents and athletes before every sports season (note: forty-five states and the District of Columbia now require that both athletes and their parents be provided with concussion and head injury information sheets and sign written consent forms indicating they are aware of the risks of concussions before each season, but an actual concussion safety meeting before the beginning of every season for contact and collision sports should be mandatory);
- The coach is a part of the concussion solution not part of the concussion problem, and teaches proper tackling, which can reduce the risk of concussion and catastrophic head, neck and spine injuries.
- The program has adopted and enforces conservative guidelines for evaluating and managing concussions, including no same day return to play after a player experiences any concussion signs or symptoms and no return to play until cleared by a medical professional after completing the graduated exercise program recommended by experts [Note: forty-two states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requring medical clearance before a return to play; New Mexico requires a minimum seven-day waiting period to play sports after a concussion; New Jersey guidelines suggest such a waiting period as well. A no same day return to play rule has also been enacted by the National Federation of High School Associations and by many, if not all, of its state associations];
- The athletic department has a certified athletic trainer (AT) on staff. Two-thirds of parents in a 2010 survey support a requirement that an AT be at all practices and games, although they disagreed on how to pay for the trainer; only 42% of U.S. high schools have access to an AT, which a 2011 study shows substantially increases the likelihood that a concussion will be recognized and treated). Most state high school associations still do not require a trainer at high school football games;
- Every child in a contact sport undergoes comprehensive pre-season baseline testing: (a) computerized neuropsychological/neurocogntive (NP), (b) balance (BESS), and (c) visual (King-Devick);
- Their child's athletic programs requires that each athlete undergo a comprehensive pre-participation physical examination (PPE) which includes the taking of a concussion history (diagnosed/undiagnosed), questions on risk factors (ADD, ADHD, migraines, depression, family history of neurological disorders, e.g. Alzheimer's, early dementia, ALS, MS, Parkinson's);
- Parents or guardians receive written notice of injuries and must give written consent before their child is allowed to return to play (many of the new concussion safety laws being enacted around the country make such notice and consent mandatory);
- Every child is provided with a safe helmet, which one that fits properly, has been properly reconditioned, and has not exceeded its useful life (a ban on reconditioning of football helmets more than 10 years old went into effect in September 2011);
- An ambulance and paramedics are present at all high school football games, and, if they are not, an emergency medical plan is in place, including on how to properly contact EMS. 911 should be called if there is a deterioration of symptoms, loss of consciousness, or direct neck pain associated with the injury (for more on the proper management of acute spinal injuries on the athletic playing field, click here);
- Coaches and officials are required by law to be trained and certified in basic safety and emergency procedures, including concussion safety (again, this is a feature of many, but not all, of the new state concussion laws);
- Game officials are given the right to send any athlete who they reasonably suspect has suffered a concussion during play to the sideline for further evaluation (the laws in two states, Arizona and Iowa, contain such a provision);
- The national governing body for their child's sport has taken steps to address concussions, both in terms of education and prevention (including limits on full-contact practices, body checking in ice hockey, safety rules and rules enforcement).
Our children deserve no less.
Brooke de Lench is Founder and Publisher of MomsTeam and a long-time concussion safety advocate.
For the most comprehensive, up-to-date concussion information on the Internet, click here.
Most recently revised May 21, 2013