A concussion is a brain injury; the only known cure for brain injury is prevention. While helmets can protect against skull fractures and more serious brain injuries, they cannot prevent a concussion; therefore, it is vitally important to be well-informed about how to prevent a concussion.
Many products such as headbands, mouth guards, and helmets have claimed to prevent concussions. As of right now, none of those claims have been substantiated. Helmets may help to lessen the impact of a hit, but there is nothing on the market currently that can completely prevent a concussion. The 4th International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport includes an overview on the effectiveness of helmets, mouth guards, and other protective equipment and found no statistical evidence of concussion risk reduction.
Experts agree that the best ways to prevent concussion are:
- Play by the rules. Teaching young athletes to respect the rules of their sport is part of good coaching.
- Wear the appropriate equipment for your sport and wear it properly. Always close a chin strap if your sport requires a helmet; many concussions occur during practice.
- Examine the playing field for uneven areas or holes.
- Make sure that end posts are padded sufficiently.
- Practice good sportsmanship. Teaching good sportsmanship is part of good coaching and good parenting minimizing unnecessary aggression on the field.
- Learn and use proper technique for your sport. Some sports organizations have taken additional action to minimize the risk of concussion by limiting the number of contact practices allowed during the season.
Here are a few more examples:
In Pop Warner football there is to be no contact for two-thirds of each practice, and plays that include full-speed head-on blocking and head-to-head contact have been eliminated.
The Ivy League has implemented several policies regarding the amount of contact practices. What began as just regulations for football have now been modified and implemented for soccer and lacrosse and are currently being reviewed for ice hockey.
The NFL also has adjusted regulations regarding how many contact practices are allowed, both in pre-season training and during the regular season.
Education is the Key
Most concussions resolve with rest within a week to ten days; however, about 10% of concussions take longer to heal and some may have long-term consequences. Many concussions go unreported; an accurate concussion history for an individual typically is not available and experts warn that there is a risk of serious injury when multiple concussions are sustained over time. The risk of second impact syndrome is real and a matter of life and death or long-term severe disability. For all of these reasons it is extremely important that everyone involved in youth sports and recreation understands how to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussion, and knows what to do if a concussion is suspected both on the field and off.
There are a variety of ways to become informed and up-to-date on current concussion issues. When the New Jersey Concussion Law was passed in December 2010 it mandated that each year every student athlete and their parents/guardians receive a fact sheet. The fact sheets must be signed and returned by students and parents/guardians or the student is not permitted to participate in school sports.
The Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey provides the most up-to-date information on this site and through free resources, webinars, and trainings for schools and communities about concussion. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to schedule and educational presentation. There are also a variety of online trainings about sports concussion for parents, students, teachers, coaches, athletic trainers, school nurses and others.
The following is a list of just a few of the concussion courses available online:
A free online presentation by the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey providing an overview of concussion, including signs and symptoms;, risk of secondary injury (including the risk of second impact syndrome); an overview of the New Jersey Concussion Law and Model Policy; and guidelines for return to play and return to the classroom following concussion. It is presented by David B. Gealt, D.O., Assistant Director of Sports Medicine and Director of the Concussion Program at Cooper Bone and Joint Institute, and Assistant Professor at UMDNJ.
A free online training by the CDC providing an overview of the pathophysiology, diagnosis, management, and prevention of concussion.
A free online training by the National Federation of State High School Associations providing an overview of the impact sports-related concussion can have on players, how to recognize a suspected concussion, the proper protocols to manage a suspected concussion, and steps to help players return to play safely after experiencing a concussion.
Presentations offered by the Athletic Trainer Society of New Jersey, including free trainings for parents, coaches, and athletes; along with trainings for nurses, physicians, and athletic trainers for a fee.