By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor
When people think about player safety in football, concussions are often the first thing they think about. At just about every level of football, the sport’s governing bodies are taking steps to ensure that athletes are less susceptible to head injuries.
Here are 10 things coaches need to know about concussions.
The NFHS’s safety recommendations. Full contact periods – both live and thud – should be limited to two to three practices per week, and only 60-90 minutes in that week. Additionally, there should be no full-contact on consecutive days and only one session of two-a-day practices.
Learn the proper coaching techniques. As part of its Heads Up Football initiative, USA Football worked alongside the Seattle Seahawks, USA Rugby and the American Football Coaches Association to offer coaches online and in-person instruction on its Shoulder Tackle system. The Heads Up Football certification is available on NFHSLearn.com. Take the complimentary shoulder tackling course today at www.usafootball.com/courses/.
Helmet reconditioning standards. The National Operating Committee for Sports Equipment standards do not require recertification or reconditioning of helmets on any particular schedule or frequency. However, many state athletic associations have their own regulations. For instance, the state of California requires annual inspections. Every other state playing under National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and NCAA rules requires recertification every two years.
Concussions signs. Look for the following signs from a player that is suspected to have suffered a concussion: He can’t recall events prior to or after a hit, appears dazed or stunned, forgets an instruction, is confused about an assignment or position, is unsure of the score or opponent, moves clumsily, answers questions slowly, loses consciousness, or shows mood or personality changes.
When to call 9-1-1. Dangerous signs and symptoms of a concussion include one pupil larger than the other; drowsiness or inability to wake up; a headache that gets worse and does not go away; slurred speech, weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination; repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions or seizures (shaking or twitching); unusual behavior, increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation; or a loss of consciousness (passed out/knocked out).
Returning to school. Most student-athletes won’t require academic adjustments as they recover from a concussion. However, for student-athletes with ongoing symptoms, a variety of formal support services may be available to help them during their recovery. Check your state and school district guidelines to see if your player is eligible for the Response to Intervention Protocol (RTI), 504 Plan, or Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
Returning to play. After a concussion, an athlete should only return to sports practices with the approval and under the supervision of their health care provider. A player’s return to the field requires these five steps: 1.) The player returns to school. 2.) The player begins light aerobic activity. 3.) The player begins moderate activity. 4.) The player begins heavy, non-contact activity. 4.) Practice and full-contact. 5.) Competition.
Create an action plan. When in doubt, remove the athlete from play on the same day of the injury and until cleared by a health care provider. Record the following information for the health care provider: cause of injury and force of the hit, any loss of consciousness, any memory loss, any seizures, and the number or previous concussions.
Recovery tips. Rest is key to help the brain heal. Advise the player’s parents to keep the player on a regular sleep routine with no late nights or sleepovers. Avoid high-risk activities that could cause another blow to the head. Return slowly to activities, and report any setbacks or challenges to the student-athlete’s medical provider.
Consider new technology. The Riddell InSite Impact Response System has a helmet-based impact monitoring technology designed to alert coaches and trainers when significant impacts are sustained during football practices and games. Team staff can also use InSite software to track player alert history and learn more about the impact exposure.
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