Concussion Management Guidelines
To ensure that every high school or college athlete can participate safely and without potential long-term effects as a result of repeated exposure to concussions and other traumatic brain injuries, Avera provides concussion care and recommends the following concussion management guidelines.
Student Athlete Protocol for Prevention & Care
If student athletes believe that they or a teammate are exhibiting signs of a concussion at any time, they should inform a coach or health care professional immediately so that an evaluation can occur and proper steps can be taken to care for the injury. Avera professionals are well trained in this evaluation and care.
Student athletes can take a number of steps to help prevent concussions as well as worsening of symptoms, including:
- Do not initiate contact with an opponent using the head or helmet.
- Do not strike opponents in the head with hands, fists, elbows or equipment.
Student athletes should be sure to take as much time as needed to recover from a concussion. Additional trauma to the brain while it is still trying to heal increases the likelihood of a repeat concussion and a worsening of associated symptoms. In rare cases, repeat concussions can cause severe and permanent brain damage and be potentially fatal.
Activities such as exercise, studying, working on computers, playing video games and anything that involves physical exertion and/or high levels of concentration (and environments with high levels of stimulus) should be avoided.
Coach Protocol for Prevention & Care
Coaches should learn to recognize signs student athletes with a concussion may exhibit on the playing field:
- Answers questions slowly.
- Appears dazed and confused.
- Exhibits confusion about position or game assignment.
- Forgets plays or assignments during plays.
- Holds head or shakes head repeatedly.
- Is unsure of location, score of the game or opponent.
- Moves on the field slowly or clumsily.
Student athletes who exhibit any of the signs and symptoms of concussion should be removed from the playing field immediately so that an evaluation by a health care professional can be performed.
When events are staffed by Avera, an Avera professional (athletic trainer or physician) conducts a sideline assessment, checking for signs of problems with memory, concentration, balance, etc. Early evaluation of a possible head injury is of utmost importance. If a concussion is diagnosed, do not allow the student athlete to return to play until he or she has been cleared to return to play by a health care professional.
Repeated incidence of concussion, before the brain has had a chance to fully heal from the previous concussion, has been shown to delay full recovery and increase the likelihood of having long-term issues such as swelling of the brain, permanent brain damage and even death.
Prevention of concussions and the long-term effects of repeated concussions from a coaching standpoint can be as easy as teaching student athletes proper technique, especially in contact sports.
- Instruct student athletes to not use their head to initiate contact with an opponent and refrain from hitting their opponents in the head with hands, fists, elbows, and equipment.
- Encourage student athletes to practice and maintain good sportsmanship.
- Purchase protective gear that meets the minimum standards for head protection and inspect the gear frequently to ensure that the equipment is being used properly, fits correctly and has no defects.
- Teach student athletes to engage in neck muscle strengthening, which has been shown to decrease the incidence of concussion.
- Encourage an environment that supports reporting possible concussions, access to prompt medical evaluation and conservative return-to-play protocols.
Concussion recovery should be supervised and guided by a licensed health care professional. Avera’s protocol states that student athletes must be symptom-free for a minimum of 24 hours between steps in a prescribed progression. If symptoms return at any point during the progression to return to play, the student athlete will discontinue the activity and rest until symptom-free for 24 to 72 consecutive hours once again, depending on severity of the concussion and relapse of symptoms.
Student athletes are only allowed to engage in physical activity that’s guided by a supervising health care professional.