Tag Archives: Kids and Concussions

Guest Blogger – UVA’s Donna Broshek, Ph.D. on Concussions

As part of brain injury awareness month, we have been featuring a series of articles to educate readers about how to prevent and treat concussions in children.  We were also fortunate to have Donna Broshek, who is a neuropsychologist and the Associate Director of the UVA Health System’s Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute, film a public service announcement with us. You can see the PSA here.  Happily, Donna also agreed to write a blog post for us.  Please join me in thanking Donna for all of her help in educating us about this important topic, and keep reading for her post:

As Bryan noted in Kids and Concussions, Part 2, Virginia passed a state law that became effective in July 2011 that requires that public schools develop a protocol for identifying and managing sports concussions, as well as providing education to students and parents.  This legislation has been very important in increasing awareness of sports concussions and keeping kids safe.  The Virginia Board of Education Guidelines For Policies on Concussions in Student-Athletes incorporated key aspects of safe management:

1)      Any athlete suspected of having a concussion should be removed from play and evaluated by a health care provider with experience in sports concussion.

2)      The student must obtain written medical clearance before being allowed to resume physical activity.

3)      Return to physical activity must occur in a gradual supervised manner – various levels of physical activity are introduced gradually while concussion symptoms are monitored.  If symptoms increase or return, the student-athlete returns to a lower level of activity until their symptoms get better.

An important issue for parents to know is that this law only applies to public schools.  Private schools are not covered, although many such schools do have good concussion policies.  Of particular importance is that private youth leagues, such as elite soccer organizations or lacrosse travel teams, are not required to have concussion policies since they are not covered by the state legislation.  It is even more important for parents to be able to recognize signs of concussion in their children and respond by seeking appropriate care when their children are not covered under the state law.

What parents can do:

1)      During the month of March, the Concussion Recognition and Response™ Coach and Parent Version phone app can be downloaded free of charge on iPhone, iPad, iTouch, and Android platforms.  The app was developed in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and provides step by step guidance in identifying symptoms and seeking medical evaluation.   The app also has information on monitoring symptoms at home and suggestions for school.

2)      Parents can insist that coaches of independent sports leagues develop a concussion policy that mirrors the one established by the state for public schools.

3)      Parents can lobby their legislators to fix this loophole in the state law so that any private leagues using public sports fields are required to follow the same policies as public schools.

4)      It is better to err on the side of conservative concussion management in youths as the developing brain is more vulnerable to concussions and concussion symptoms last longer in kids and teens.  If in doubt, sit them out!

Donna K. Broshek, Ph.D.

Clinical Neuropsychologist

Kids and Concussions, Part 2

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.

Resources:

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.