As you are aware, concussions of young athletes has become a public health priority and as an association, SPMHA believes education, recognition and recovery of our athletes is of utmost importance. Hockey Alberta has recently released an official statement on concussions, which is detailed below. In addition, the world leading Center for Disease Control has issued a statement that summarizes SPMHA’s stance on the subject of concussions:
We need to build a culture in sports where athletes take steps to lower their chances of getting a concussion and recognize and report concussion symptoms so that they can seek care and take time to recover. This involves moving beyond general knowledge of concussion and changing the way we talk about and respond to concussion so that athletes know they cannot play with a concussion or hide their symptoms. While research is ongoing to help identify the best approach to changing the culture of concussion in sports, there are action steps that coaches, parents, health care providers, and school professionals can take now to help keep young athletes safe and supported as they pursue the sports they love to play.
Across the country, growing attention on concussion has led to numerous efforts aimed at protecting young athletes. While progress has been made, research suggests that STILL too many young athletes do not report their concussion symptoms, are not removed from play and continue to play with symptoms, or return to play too soon.
Too Many Young Athletes Do Not Report Concussion Symptoms: Reporting a possible concussion is the most important action young athletes can take to bring their injury to light. Reporting symptoms will facilitate an athlete being properly assessed, monitored, and treated and taking needed time to heal. Yet, research shows that too many young athletes do not take this critical first step. In one study, researchers interviewed a group of almost 800 high school athletes during the course of a season and found that:
69% of athletes with a possible concussion played with concussion symptoms, and 40% of those athletes said that their coaches were not aware that they had a possible concussion. In a different study, athletes were asked what they would do if they thought they had a concussion: They most commonly answered, “I would keep playing and see how I felt” or “I would take a little break and return to play.” None said that they would stop playing entirely if they experienced concussion symptoms.
After a Concussion, Young Athletes Are Returning to Play Too Soon: Young athletes should never return to play the same day of the injury. In addition, they should not return to play until an appropriate health care provider says it is okay. However, many young athletes are returning to play too soon following a concussion. In a study of 150 young patients seen in an emergency department for concussion, many did not take time to heal fully before returning to their usual activities: 39% reported returning to play on the same day of their concussion, and more than half (58 percent) returned to play without medical clearance.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
ACTION STEP #1:
Coaches should foster an environment where young athletes feel comfortable reporting a concussion. Before and during the season, coaches should talk about concussion and ask young athletes to share and discuss their concerns about reporting a concussion.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: Young athletes are more likely to report concussion symptoms accurately when they receive positive messages about reporting from their coach.
ACTION STEP #2:
Parents and coaches need to communicate to athletes that a concussion should be reported no matter how important the game or event seems. Athletes should know that health and safety always come first.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: Parents and coaches greatly influence how athletes think about sports, such as their motivation to play, enjoyment of the sport, goals, and decision making.
Young athletes may not report their symptoms because they feel pressure from or worry about letting down their coach, parent(s), or teammates.
WHAT TO DO IF AN ATHLETE EXPERIENCES IMPACT TO THE HEAD, FACE OR NECK & A HEAD INJURY IS SUSPECTED:
A coach, designated safety person or identified medical professional needs to follow guidelines as listed on the CONCUSSION RECOGNITION TOOL 5 (CRT5) link here: CRT5
RED FLAGS — CALL AN AMBULANCE:
If there is concern after an injury including whether ANY of the following signs are observed or complaints are reported then the player should be safely and immediately removed from play/game/activity.
If no licensed healthcare professional is available, call an ambulance for urgent medical assessment:
• Neck pain or tenderness
• Double vision
• Weakness or tingling/burning in arms or legs
• Severe or increasing headache
• Seizure or convulsion
• Loss of consciousness
• Deteriorating conscious state
• Increasingly restless, agitated or combative
NEXT STEPS (EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY) FOR ALL SPMHA PARTICIPANTS:
Hockey Canada / Hockey Alberta Policy 1708 – Hockey Canada Concussion Policy
- Participants must be referred to a physician for diagnosis as soon as possible.
- Once a participant, who is experiencing “concussion like symptoms” is diagnosed, the participant is not permitted to return to play or practice/training until all six of the return to play requirements are met. (see concussion card & concussion diagram linked below)
- Each step must be documented.
- Written clearance from a physician is required prior to returning to activity. (see medical clearance letter linked below)
- No participant shall be pressured to return to play prior to the steps being completed.
- A copy of this documentation must be scanned & emailed to your team coach, manager & divisional director.
RETURN TO PLAY STEPS:
MEDICAL CLEARANCE LETTER:
SPMHA VP Senior Divisions