Concussion protocol is lacking extensiveness


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In the last decade, concussions among teens aged 14 to 19 have increased by 200 percent, with football, ice hockey and soccer posing the most significant risk of injury (Headcase). Concussions among student athletes have become an epidemic in recent years, and there needs to be more attention devoted to educating teens and adults on the full ramifications of head trauma.

Due to the brain’s complexities, every brain injury is different, and while some symptoms show up immediately, many others may not manifest until the days or weeks following the injury. According to Mayo Clinic, even with a mild concussion, it may take a student up to three months for all lingering symptoms to go away, which affects not only a student’s ability to return to sports, but also their capacity to succeed academically.

Fairfax County educates students on how to handle concussions using the Concussion Education presentation that each student athlete must complete before they are allowed to compete in their sport. However, the presentation is not nearly extensive enough on the subject of head injuries, with only 32 of the 58 slides actually referring to the topic of concussion protocol, and it is a well-known fact that most athletes don’t even read the presentation because the slides don’t load properly and the student only needs to input their ID in the beginning to earn credit.

Additionally, the procedures laid out in the PowerPoint put too much emphasis on the student taking the initiative to communicate repeatedly with trainers and coaching staff. While this is something that each student should do if they sustain a concussion, this policy allows too much leeway for students to return to activity before they are truly ready. Since some concussion symptoms don’t appear until weeks after the injury, relying too much on the student’s judgement is hazardous because many students will rush to return to activity without realizing that they aren’t fully healed.

With returning from some injuries, it is best to defer to the athlete’s judgement, but in the case of concussions, it should be different. An athlete’s instinct is often to push themselves to get back sooner rather than later, but when a student has concussion symptoms, it is the job of the staff to keep them out of activity until they fully heal.

In an Athletic Training Program used by FCPS for Coach Orientation in 2014, coaches are asked to maintain “adequate” communication with athletic training staff in the event of any sort of injury. In the event of a head injury, however, “adequate” is not enough. To fully ensure the safety of our student athletes, concussions should be treated with more urgency. With so much time and money being poured into research surrounding concussions and CTE, it is important to be as careful as possible that athletes, especially teenagers, are not allowed to make decisions that could put both their immediate and long term future at risk.

Returning from a concussion needs to be a patient, calculated process that gradually moves the athlete along as they clear each hurdle in their recovery. Student athletes who have experienced concussions should also be urged to visit a specialist or their pediatrician in addition to meeting with the athletic training staff. While the athletic trainers are certified to deal with concussions and can be relied upon, it’s best to have as many people as possible watch over recovery. By surrounding injured teens with as many medical experts as possible, the chances of students returning too soon should decrease, and more of them will have a better understanding of their injuries.

With an epidemic of adolescent head trauma injuries across the nation in recent years, schools must be as diligent as possible in assisting students in their recoveries. Changes must be made to decrease the chances of getting multiple head injuries because with so many details on the long term impacts of concussions remaining ambiguous, there’s no way to concretely know what multiple traumatic head injuries could do to a student’s future.