Recently Donna Broshek, Associate Director of the University of Virginia Health System’s Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute, and I recorded a public service announcement about concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in children. During our shoot, I was able to talk with her about this important topic. One of the things I took away from that conversation is the importance of our role as parents in educating ourselves and our children about concussions.
Four Ways To Help Keep Your Child Safe
Bruised egos, broken bones and concussions are the biggest risks children face in sports–at an age and almost any sport. As parents we can lessen our safety concerns by becoming informed, engaged and in communication with our children, the schools and their coaches.
1) Educate yourself. Learn what a concussion is, its symptoms and what you can do to help your child or teen reduce the chances of a traumatic brain injury. For valuable resources see my first article, What Parents Need to Know About Concussions, Part 1.
2) Ask questions. Is your school system in compliance with the 2011 Virginia Student Athlete Protection Act? This bill established the Virginia Board of Education Guidelines For Policies on Concussions in Student-Athletes, requiring specific protocols for sports, protective gear and training.
Talk to the coach, school administration, league representative and anyone else who is involved in your child’s sports. How knowledgeable are they about concussions? Ask to see a copy of the school or league’s training manual for coaches and parent volunteers.
b) Check to see that helmets and equipment are up to date, in good repair and certified, if applicable.
c) Are athletes given any materials on safety, sportsmanship and injury? Are parents given materials on concussions?
3) Talk to your children. Talk about peer pressure and well-meaning adults who say, “tough it out” after an injury. Explain in age-appropriate language what a concussion is and the dangers from returning to play too quickly. Talk from a place of love and concern about why their physical health is more important than playing when injured. Talk about the long-term effects of concussions.
4) Get involved. Your level of involvement may depend on your child’s age. High school football players aren’t as comfortable with mom around as they were when they were children. There are ways to become a ‘team parent’–from volunteering with fundraisers and parents’ groups to sitting on advisory committees. Attend games and practices (for younger children), show your support for the team and get to know your child’s coaches.
Your involvement as the parent of a young athlete is vital–it shows you care about your child’s participation and safety. And, should an accident occur you’re right there and able to see what happened and to take an active role in your child’s recovery from a concussion.
In my next article we’ll talk about how to prepare your child to play team sports.
Parents’ vigilance can head off kids’ concussion risk (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/09/29/concussion-kids-cantu/1581173/)
The CDC Parent/ Athlete Concussion Information Sheet (http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/headsup/pdf/Parent_Athlete_Info_Sheet-a.pdf)
MomsTEAM.com (http://www.momsteam.com) – Helpful website for sports moms and dads.