By The Safety Mom

This past weekend my step-daughter got sidelined from her soccer play-offs due to a concussion. I have to say I wasn’t upset. I mean, I was upset about the concussion but not about her getting side-lined. She is one of the star players and this was an important game and I was more concerned that her over-zealous coach would consider allowing her to play regardless of her injury.

School athletic programs have become crazy. I remember school athletics used to be important when I was growing up but it seems to have gone to an entire new level. Kids are told by their coaches and even parents that their performance is critical for getting into the right school, even landing the right job (yes, I actually heard a mother say this!)

And now that play-off season is here for many school athletic programs, the local rivalries have kicked into high gear. I spent my weekend cheering on the un-defeated 4th grade football team that my daughter cheers for. But, as many mother’s used to say, “It’s fun until someone gets hurt!”

Concussions are a serious concern for athletes at any age but in young people they often-times go unreported and multiple concussions can lead to serious complications later in life. We now know that it is unsafe for any athlete to return-to-play the same day they have suffered a concussion, and it is recommended that every athlete not return-to-play until they have been cleared by an appropriate medical professional. Athletes who do return early are at risk for Second-Impact Syndrome, a rare but catastrophic brain injury in which an athlete who has suffered a concussion incurs further brain trauma before symptoms associated with the initial concussion have cleared. About 50% of athletes die after suffering SIS and the rest suffer life-long impairments.

Parents, coaches and the players themselves must not only recognize the signs of a concussion but take the necessary steps in treating the concussion, even if that means taking the star player out of the most important game. Athletic programs in many of our schools are so competitive that coaches and the athletes themselves are willing to take serious health risks for the sake of the game. This attitude must stop and parents need to play a big part in changing this.Parent coaches in particular need to lead the way.

USA Football, the sport’s national governing body on youth and amateur levels, is conducting a national campaign through Nov. 29 titled “Put Pride Aside for Player Safety” to emphasize concussion awareness in youth sports, particularly football. The campaign is promoted in partnership with the NFL and its 32 teams as well as the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

“Put Pride Aside for Player Safety” challenges and instructs coaches, parents and youth players to make the right decision when a concussion is suspected, which is to remove an athlete from play the day of the injury and not allow him or her to return until a medical professional deems the athlete symptom-free and gives clearance for a return to play.Endowed by the NFL Youth Football Fund, USA Football offers innovative resources through its 80-plus training events and to ensure a positive football experience. The Indianapolis-based independent non-profit is the official youth football development partner of the NFL, its 32 teams and the NFL Players Association.

It’s vital that parents recognize the serious issue of concussions in young athletes leading to traumatic brain injury. Both coaches and parents need to be aware of the problems that can arise when an athlete is put back in the game before he or she is ready. ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) is the first, most-widely used, and most scientifically validated computerized concussion evaluation system that many towns are now using.

Additionally, the Centers For Disease Control offers free downloadable information for coaches, parents and athletes on preventing, recognizing and responding to a concussion. 

Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom Enterprises and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant. 

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