When I played football smelling salts were part of every team’s medical kit. If someone got their “bell rung” or was knocked out briefly the smelling salts were brought out and the player tried to “clear the cobwebs” so he could get back on the field as soon as possible. Today with better medical information we realize just how dangerous concussions can be. Permanent brain injuries or even fatalities can occur if a concussions are not recognized and treated correctly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have some excellent resources for coaches on their web site - http://cdc.gov/concussion.
What coaches should look for:
- Athlete has trouble remembering events before or after the hit occured – make sure you ask questions about what events that happened before the game began and questions about the game that occured before and after the hit.
- Personality, mood or behavior change – if athlete has an abrupt mood change, for example, a player who was upbeat and vocal suddenly becomes quiet and sullen after a hit you may suspect a concussion occured.
- Appears dazed, stunned or answers questions slowly – this can be very subjective but always err on the side of caution.
- Can’t remember responsibilities, plays or position – always observe the player carefully after a big hit. If they are asking teammates for help on what they should be doing get them off the field immedietly and evaluate them.
- Athlete has a headache, dizziness, clumsiness or is vomiting.
- If a player loses conciousness (even briefly) always assume there is a concussion – however, most concussions occur without the athlete losing consiousness.
If you suspect a concussion there are some specific things you as a coach need to do:
- Remove the athlete from play – take his helmet away and don’t let him on the field even if he insists he’s alright. One game is never worth the risk of a more serious issue if he has a concussion and takes another hit.
- Inform the players parents or guardians that you suspect a concussion occured and that he needs to be evaluated by a health care professional
- Don’t allow the athlete to practice or play until you receive written clearance from a health care professional that he’s been evaluated and is clear to play.
I strongly encourage you to get training on recognizing concussion symptoms. A concussion is a brain injury and should always be treated as a very serious injury.