Michael D. McCleary, M.D.

Michael D. McCleary, M.D.

Did you know at least one player sustains a mild concussion in nearly every American football game? It’s true, and with the Super Bowl just last month and spring football just around the corner it’s important for many Orlando-area coaches, parents and student-athletes alike to familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms of a concussion as well as the new Florida Concussion Law.

With more than 248,000 children visiting hospital emergency departments for concussions and other traumatic brain injuries relating to sports and recreation in 2009, according to the Youth Sports Safety Alliance, parents should realize that concussions can happen during any sport and at any time.

Signs and Symptoms

Recognition and proper management of concussions when they first occur can prevent further injury or even death. Remember that just because a concussion may not have a physical sign, that doesn’t mean the athlete may not have a head injury.

Here are some of the signs you should be aware of as an observer. The athlete may:

  • May appear stunned or dazed
  • Forget plays
  • Be confused about assignments or positions
  • Move clumsily
  • Be unsure of the game, score or opponent
  • Lose consciousness
  • Forget events immediately prior or after the hit
  • Show signs of behavior or personality changes

What to Do If You Suspect a Concussion

If you think an athlete may have sustained a head injury, here are the immediate steps to prevent further injury:

  • Recognize the injury and the dangers of continued play
  • Remove the athlete immediately from activity – practice or a game
  • Refer the athlete for medical attention as soon as possible
  • Notify the athlete’s home and explain your obligation to them
  • Return the athlete to play only after they have provided necessary medical clearance Florida’s Concussion Law

The Florida Youth Concussion Law was established in 2012 and requires that athletic trainers and/or coaches remove an athlete from a game or practice immediately following a suspected head injury. Prior to returning to play, the athlete must be evaluated and receive medical clearance from a physician.

It’s recommended, however, that athletes be tested prior to injury to establish a clear baseline of neurological function. By having a baseline test and then comparing it to a patient’s ability to recall and process information after an injury, physicians can measure the brain’s functional level and detect abnormal brain patterns, which may be associated with a concussion even when there are no obvious signs or symptoms.

By Michael D. McCleary, M.D.

Originally Published in Central Florida Lifestyle Magazine, March 2013