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Concussions in youth sports: 3 things for coaches and parents to know

Youth sports coaches and parents are always contending with multiple goals. Sure, you want to win. But it's also important to instill values of hard work, teamwork, and enjoyment of the game while protecting the long-term health of the kids.

If you're coaching or have a child who plays a sport with frequent head injuries, such as football or soccer, the goal of protecting your players' long-term health is especially critical.

In this post, we'll take note of three useful things to know about responding to concussions.

A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury.

A generation ago, coaches and trainers typically encouraged football players at all levels to ignore head injuries.

Today, however, there is ample evidence that a concussion is not merely "getting your bell rung." It is a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and needs to be treated accordingly.

This means paying attention to symptoms such as loss of consciousness, confusion, memory loss (amnesia) or acute headaches. This may require ongoing monitoring because symptoms of a concussion do not always themselves immediately after an injury.

Guidelines on concussion protocols are always evolving.

It's long been known that the main treatment for a kid with a concussion is rest. As we noted in post on youth concussions earlier this month, however, the guidelines from medical authorities have been updated to encourage kids to become active sooner after mild brain trauma than in the past.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), two days of rest is a good amount for a child with a mild concussion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has similar guidelines, seeking to balance kids' need for stimulating experiences with their need for rest to promote healing of their brain injury.

Resources are available to help coaches and players stay current on best practices for concussion protocols.

Your youth sports association probably has its own protocols to follow after a player suffers a concussion. In many sports, training for coaches in these protocols is mandatory.

These league-specific resources are a good place to start. There are also training courses available through the CDC. The CDC has also created a useful smartphone app called HEADS UP.

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