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Concussion in Sports

What is a concussion?

Dr. Mike Evans
St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto

Youth Brain
  • A concussion is a brain injury
  • It is caused by a bump or blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull
  • Concussions can occur in any sport and all concussions are serious

Why are youth at greater risk of sports injury/concussions?

  • The teenage brain is a work in progress.
  • The parts of the brain responsible for judgment, self control, emotions and  organization are not fully developed until age 25.
  • Sometimes youth believe they’re invincible and may act without thinking about the consequences.
  • Youth are easily influenced by peers which may lead them to try things they are not capable of doing.
  • Bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments in youth are still growing which make them more prone to injury than adults.

What can you (parents, coaches, educators) do to reduce the risk of a concussion?

Family riding bikes

Prevention is the key treatment for concussion. Parents, coaches and educators should teach and encourage children engaged with sports to be aware of the need and strategies to prevent concussion on themselves and other players. In order to reduce the risk of concussions, players are encouraged to:

  • Play fair and show respect to other players.
  • Play within the rules of the sport and within his or her abilities. 
  • Be mindful of his or her brain and the brains of their opponents. Play to avoid injury to the brain.
  • Wear the right protective gear specified for each sport.
  • Ensure protective gear is in good condition, fits well and is worn properly. 
  • Appreciate that helmets can prevent skull fractures and major brain injury by up to 88%. However, helmets do not prevent concussion.
  • Remove trip hazards from their playing environment.
  • Follow return to play guidelines to avoid repeat concussions.

What can you do as a parent to reduce your child’s risk of sports injury?

  • Encourage activities that youth enjoy and are physically capable of doing.
  • Continue to encourage age-appropriate activities.
  • Make sure all safety gear is in good repair, the proper size and meets CSA safety standards.
  • Explore opportunities to develop proper techniques and skills.
  • Talk at home about safety practices, e.g fair play, avoiding aggression, sportsmanship.
  • Model the behaviour you want to see in your teen, e.g wear a helmet, demonstrate good sportsmanship.

Help your teen make good choices by:

  • Praising the positive things they do e.g during sports or in their academics.
  • Respecting them in making decisions and discussing the results with them.
  • Encouraging them to try new things and take on appropriate challenges in order to gain skills, confidence and experience success.

What can I do as a coach to reduce the risk of sports injury?

  • Teach safety as part of your welcome/introduction to the sport/activity.
  • Talk about safety practices, (e.g., fair play, avoiding aggression) and help them develop proper techniques and skills.
  • Soccer Coach
  • Remind your athletes about the importance of using properly fitted helmets or other protective equipment.
  • Adopt rules that support the use of protective equipment, such as a "No helmet, no wheels/no ice time" policy.
  • Ensure all equipment meets required safety standards, and is in good working condition prior to each game or practice.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of a concussion.
  • Head injuries should be seen by a doctor and athletes should not go back to the activity until a doctor has given them permission to return.
  • Model the behaviour that you want to see in your athlete, e.g., wear a helmet, and demonstrate good sportsmanship. Remember you are an important role model.

What should I do as a coach if a concussion occurs?

  • Remove any player with a suspected concussion from play immediately.
  • Provide adult supervision and continue to monitor the child until he/she receives medical examination.
  • Refer to a doctor for medical examination.
  • Keep the child out of play until a doctor cleared them and says he/she is okay to return to play.

How do I know a concussion has occurred?

What are the guidelines to return to school or play when a concussion occurs?