Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: Flag on the Play! Youth Football Players Do Not Know Concussion Signs and Symptoms (Sports Med Res)


Monday, January 5, 2015

Flag on the Play! Youth Football Players Do Not Know Concussion Signs and Symptoms

Sport-Related Concussion Knowledge Among Youth Football Players

McAllister-Deitrick J., Covassin T., Gould DR. Athl Train Sports Health Care. 2014;6(6):280-284.

Take Home Message: While 75% of youth football athletes reported that they understood the dangers of concussions over 60% reported that they believe it is okay to continue to play after they sustained a hit to the head that elicited a headache as long as they did not lose consciousness. This suggests that this population needs further concussion education.

Nearly 3 million athletes over the age of 6 participate in tackle football, and concussions account for up to 6.5% of all injuries in youth sports. A lack of knowledge surrounding concussive symptoms is associated with under-reporting concussion injuries; however, most of these studies fail to include youth populations. Therefore, the authors evaluated sports-related concussion knowledge among youth football players (8 to 14 years of age). Eighty-one youth football players from a Big Ten university football camp (~12 years old, ~3.6 years playing tackle football) completed a 12-item survey developed by the researchers. Athletes answered questions regarding the athlete’s knowledge of the dangers of concussion, if they knew the concussion signs and symptoms, and whether the athlete believes he could recognize a concussion. Additionally, the athletes attempted to identify the correct concussion signs and symptoms out of 16 listed signs and symptoms. Most of the athletes correctly identified dizziness (88%), headache (86%), blurred vision (82%), loss of consciousness (78%), and confusion (77%). However, most of the athletes were not able to identify amnesia (39%) or sleep disturbances (43%) as concussive signs and symptoms. Many athletes thought black eye (95%), chest pain (95%), abnormal sense of smell (91%), abnormal sense of taste (94%), and nose bleed (83%) were concussive signs and symptoms. Seventy-five percent of the athletes reported that they understood the dangers of concussions, but only 29% reported that they agree completely that they know all the concussion signs and symptoms. Additionally, 75% of the athletes reported that if they may have a concussion it is not okay to continue playing; however, 63% of the athletes failed to disagree with the statement “If I am hit in the head and have a headache, it is okay to continue to play as long as I didn’t lose consciousness.”

This study conveys that the athletes understand that concussion is a problem in their sport; however, they lack the knowledge about concussion signs and symptoms to follow through with reporting if they were to sustain a concussion. Due to the individuality of this injury it is important to recognize all of the signs and symptoms following a head impact. The authors demonstrated the youth athlete’s continued misunderstanding of the concussive signs and symptoms. This could be due to youth athletes not knowing what the terms amnesia or loss of consciousness mean when they are reading the survey. Furthermore, returning to play when the brain is still in a state of vulnerability is also a concern. The authors point out that only 38% of the athletes would not return to play if they sustained a head impact that resulted with a headache. Medical personnel should be aware of the lack of knowledge among youth football players regarding concussion signs and symptoms. We should educate these athletes about concussion signs and symptoms as well as the dangers of returning to play too soon and what to do if they suspect they sustained a concussion. We must be proactive and ensure this information is distributed to the coaches, players, and parents.

Questions for Discussion: Do you believe parents of youth athletes should have to go through standardized concussion training? What is the best way you found to educate youth athletes on concussions?

Written by: Jane McDevitt, PhD
Reviewed by: Jeff Driban

Related Posts:
More Concussion Education Necessary for Pediatric Neurologists

McAllister-Deitrick, J., Covassin, T., & Gould, D. (2014). Sport-Related Concussion Knowledge Among Youth Football Players Athletic Training & Sports Health Care, 6 (6), 280-284 DOI: 10.3928/01484834-20141112-03


Alexander Dailey said...

Education, especially for concussion, is crucial for the evolving landscape of youth sport participation. Since the young student-athlete is still growing and developing, so are their brains. Concussion education should not only be stressed for return-to-partcipation, but also return-to-learn.
In particular, I feel that concussion education for parents would be beneficial. The understanding of signs and symptoms, especially the presence of multiple signs or symptoms, can help guide the parent to have their child see a licensed medical professional that has an emphasis on sports medicine. Such medical professionals include Athletic Trainers and physicians, with the physician having the final say on the diagnosis.
Athletic Trainers and physicians should play a crucial role in both evaluation and education for concussion. However, concussion education should be used with caution and not replace an evaluation performed by a licensed medical professional.
Concussion education for parents should utilize concussion training along with discussing the signs and symptoms with a licensed medical professional. Based on experiences of my colleagues that work at the high schools and even middle schools, a combination of online concussion training along with discussing the signs and symptoms with an athletic trainer has helped educate parents.

Jane McDevitt said...

I agree that information regarding return-to-learn program is lacking. Yet, it is just as important as return-to-play. What online concussion training tool do you find works the best? How do you discuss the s/s with the parents? Do you do it as an individual basis, spring/fall group meeting, or per team?

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