A recent study published this year showed that 4 out of 10 concussions are never reported by the athlete. When asked about the classic “bell ringer”, less than one out of seven are ever reported. With the recent push to educate players, coaches and parents about concussion the way we treat concussion has changed to protect the athlete from further injury. This doesn’t help if the athlete is reporting the injury.
It’s difficult to convince the invincible teenager that a head injury can have serious long term consequences. Studies show the most common reasons for not reporting a concussion was that it wasn’t serious enough, they didn’t want to let their teammates down or they didn’t want to be removed from play. What they don’t realize is that the consequences may be devastating. Symptoms such as concentration problems, headaches and depression can be permanent
One way to help the concussed athlete is to teach the players to recognize the signs and report when their teammate is hurt. Players wouldn’t hesitate to report a player lying on the field with a broken leg. Consequences of a concussion can be much worse. Sadly, recent studies have shown that even with more concussion education, athletes were not more likely to report the injury. The fear of not being able to continue playing was the main deterrent.
Another way to help improve reporting is to help the athlete understand by reporting their symptoms early they will get better faster and return to play sooner. Delaying treatment will delay recovery and potentially lead to more time being kept off the field.
The bottom line is that it’s difficult enough to be an adolescent. Now we want them to admit, in front of their friends that they are hurt and can’t play. We as coaches, parents and officials must remain alert to the signs of a concussion, checking the athletes that were just involved in a big hit or after a tough game. Put the player first and don’t push the envelope because their one of your best players. And players must be smart, honest and, when in doubt, sit the game out!
Robert Cabry, M.D.