Education and Prevention of Concussions in High School Athletes

Following up yesterday’s post on the increase in concussions seen at hospital emergency rooms, new initiatives to educate the high school sports community about concussions have been adopted. Beginning in the fall of 2010, all Rhode Island high school coaches — head coaches, assistants and volunteers — must take a free 20-minute online course on the signs, symptoms and proper treatment of concussions available on the National Federation of State High School Associations (“NFHS”) website according to a report in the Providence Journal

Following recently passed legislation in Rhode Island — the School & Youth Programs Concussion Act Title 16-90-1 — coaches must hold a preseason meeting with athletes and their parents to discuss the symptoms and risks of concussions and traumatic brain injury. All players and parents must then sign a form acknowledging that they have been given this information. This season, any athlete who suffers a head injury in a practice or a game must be removed from competition. He or she may not return to play until they are evaluated by and receive written clearance from a licensed physician.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations Sports Medicine Handbook, a concussion is a brain injury that occurs when a sudden blow to the head or to the body causes the brain to shake inside the skull. Common symptoms, which vary from person to person and may last for hours, days, weeks or even months, include:

  • nausea,
  • dizziness,
  • ringing in the ears,
  • prolonged or recurring headaches,
  • fatigue,
  • weakness or numbness,
  • as well as difficulty seeing,
  • concentrating or
  • remembering things.

Once someone suffers a concussion, he or she is at an increased risk for further concussions. Although most concussions are mild, it is possible for a concussion that is not managed properly to lead to prolonged brain damage and even death. It is hoped that this educational program and information will lead to a reduction in the numbers of young athletes taken to the emergency rooms for treatment of traumatic brain injury and multiple concussions.

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