COLUMBIA, Md. — A new survey from MedStar Health is highlighting significant injury concerns heading into the spring youth sports season. Following a series of highly publicized injuries in professional sports over the past year, prioritizing concussion safety is now top of mind for parents.
According to parent respondents, 93% have concerns about concussions and 91% percent believe youth sports coaches should be trained concussion protocols and CPR. This compares to a 2019 study of parents, which found that only slightly more than half of parents were worried about concussions.
“Parents are realizing that regardless of age, returning to a sport with concussion symptoms can lead to a more serious injury,” said Karen Laugel, MD, medical director of MedStar Health Concussion Clinics. “Youth sports coaches are often called upon to evaluate an injured athlete on the field and know when to refer them for medical care. Later, coaches may be asked to help supervise athletes through a ‘Return to Play’ protocol. No athlete should be allowed to return to contact sports without written medical clearance.”
Despite the increased concerns of parents, respondents show an inconsistent knowledge of current concussion protocols. The survey found that:
- 89% believe a person suffering from a concussion must stay awake, which is an outdated guideline — in general, sleep is healing.
- 65% believe helmets prevent concussions and almost half believe concussions can only occur from a direct hit to the head. Although helmets do not prevent concussions, they lower the risk of skull fracture and of loss of consciousness and are recommended if fitted properly.
- 13% believe an athlete can continue to play after a head injury as long as they don’t lose consciousness — yet, the majority of concussions do not involve loss of consciousness.
“If athletes aren’t aware of their concussion symptoms after a body blow, fall, or hit to the head, they may think it’s safe to return to play. It’s critical that coaches, athletic trainers, and parents discuss concussion symptoms with athletes before the season starts and encourage them to report symptoms and remove themselves from play. It’s difficult to come out of a game, and parents and coaches can support their athletes by showing them it’s the right thing to do.”
According to Laugel, the majority of injured athletes who are removed from play experience temporary symptoms. However, if an injured child is showing progressive symptoms like worsening headache, frequent vomiting, slurred speech, worsening imbalance, or increased confusion, parents or coaches should call 911 for transport to an emergency department. If symptoms are milder, they can seek treatment from an urgent care clinic or primary care provider. If necessary, the athlete can also be referred to a concussion clinic, like the MedStar Health Concussion Clinics, for continued care.
MedStar Health’s survey included responses from 1,000 U.S. adults collected in Feb. 2022.