Why it is Critical to Report Concussions
Many athletes don’t report their symptoms, and many coaches fail to recognize them.
It is important to report a concussion both to speed an athlete’s recovery and to prevent a potentially more-devastating repeat concussion. The risk of a repeat concussion appears to be highest in the first 10 days after a concussion, and this heightened risk may continue for some time. During this period, the brain is more vulnerable to injury, even from minor hits or impacts.
Athletes don’t report concussions for a variety of reasons. Some worry that if they take time off from their sport they will let their teammates down or lose their position on the team. Some are fierce competitors and say they are willing to “win at any price.”
In a season-long survey of athletes from 20 high schools in Washington State:
- 69% of football players and girls’ soccer players said they continued to play with symptoms of a concussion
- 40% said their coach was not aware of the concussion
Repeat concussions are dangerous
Young athletes may suffer long-lasting or permanent disability if they have a repeat concussion before the brain has healed. This can mean changes in the ability to learn, remember, process complex information and do physical activities, as well as changes in mood.
In rare cases a repeat concussion can cause a brain hematoma (bleeding) and swelling that can lead to permanent brain damage or death.
Finally, according to a 2016 study, athletes who immediately report concussion symptoms recover faster and return to play an average of five days sooner.
“If you recognize a change in the athlete after a blow to the head or body, it’s pretty simple–the job of the parent or coach is to recognize the potential concussion.” Take the athlete out and seek medical attention, says Dr. Stanley A. Herring, cofounder of The Sports Institute at UW Medicine. “If we do that, we will prevent tragedies.”
It’s the law
Laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia require removing an athlete from play who has a possible concussion. These laws, modeled on Washington state’s Zackery Lystedt Law, are designed to encourage athletes to report symptoms of a concussion and protect athletes once they have one. They require:
- Education about concussion for athletes, parents or guardians and coaches before the season begins
- Immediate removal from practice or play of any athlete who has a suspected concussion
- Clearance by a licensed medical professional before the athlete can return to sports
The National Collegiate Athletic Association has adopted similar concussion guidelines.