Reducing Concussion Risk in Youth Athletes

Coaches: you cannot eliminate concussions from contact sports, but you can lower the risks with tips from STACK Expert Mo Skelton.

Sports Concussion

It's not likely that we will ever be able to eliminate concussions from contact sports such as football, but we can lower the risk. Here are a few things coaches can do to reduce the incidence and severity of concussions among their athletes.

Make sure helmets fit properly.

Read these guidelines from the International Federation of American Football. In 2012, researchers from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine found that helmets that fit properly can drop the concussion rate by more than 80 percent compared to ill-fitting helmets or helmets worn improperly.

Know the signs of concussion.

They include dizziness, headaches, nausea and slurred speech. Stop play immediately if these signs occur. If the symptoms are persistent or severe, seek emergency care. If not, advise your athlete to see a doctor within two days.

Use programs like Upward Sports.

Such programs focus on the care and development of young athletes. For example, they offer flag football for younger players. Players should learn the game without contact before taking on skills such as tackling.

Teach proper tackling technique.

Heads Up Football has it right.

Include neck-strengthening exercises in your training.

Advocate to add an athletic trainer in your program.

Trainers have the skills to assess an injury and get a player help quickly. Sadly, in my state of Oklahoma, only 20 percent of high schools have an athletic trainer.

Don't rush to return players to the field.

The American Academy of Neurology updated its guidelines for assessing players with concussions. The AAN recommends taking a more conservative approach with young players than previously thought and getting a doctor's OK before allowing a concussed athlete to return to competition.

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