Q&A: Frequently asked questions about youth sports concussions

I recently had the opportunity to address a group of coaches, parents and athletes regarding concussions in youth sports. The seminar, sponsored by Backus Hospital, was designed to help the audience recognize the early signs of concussion and take appropriate action.

Many good questions arose from the discussion and the information may be helpful to others:

After suffering a concussion, when is it safe for an athlete to return to competition? Recovery time varies depending on the severity of the incident. In general, the athlete should be symptom-free before beginning a program where activities gradually escalate from stationary cycling to a full return. If at any time symptoms return, the progression stops and the previous level resumes.

If an athlete suffers a concussion, who determines when to resume an activity? After suffering a concussion, no athlete should return until they have been evaluated by a medical professional with experience in the treatment of concussion. Proof of medical clearance should be provided in writing.

In a situation where there are complaints of a headache and nausea but head trauma is uncertain, should the athlete be removed from the contest? Absolutely. It is sometimes difficult to determine if and when head trauma occurred and the patient may have amnesia. When in doubt, it is best to eliminate the possibility of further harm.

At what age should an athlete begin neck strengthening exercises to prevent indirect concussion? Any strengthening program in a child should be initiated in conjunction with a strength and conditioning specialist.

For those who could not attend this seminar, more information, including a video, can be obtained at www.backushospital.org/concussion. It was encouraging to see so many adults who are involved in youth sports become trained in the recognition of this potentially deadly injury.

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