If you're worried about your child in sports, you have good reason. In the U.S., about 30 million children and teens participate in some form of organized sports, and there are more than 3.5 million injuries each year. That ranges from scrapes and bruises to more serious injuries. WF caught up with Jordan Fliegel, CoachUp CEO and Founder. CoachUp’s mission is to change the trajectory of kids lives through sport and keep them safe.
WF: At what age should parents be concerned with concussions on the field?
"It’s never too early to start making your children aware of injuries that could happen during activities. Concussions aren’t just an injury possibility that happens only on the field, a child could easily sustain a traumatic brain injury simply from falling off his or her bike or even awkward stumble on the playground. As for a particular age, when you are putting elbows pads and a helmet on your child for any activity, that would be a great time to start having a dialogue about safety and injury prevention, concussions included."
WF: What are the signs a parent / coach should look for in a child with regards to concussions?
"I recommend that parents and coaches stay abreast of the latest research and information made available from the CDC, which is the same advice we provide to our CoachUp coaches."
Some of the subtle signs of a concussions are when an athlete:
- Appears dazed or stunned
- Is confused about an assignment or position
- Forgets an instruction
- Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
- Moves clumsily
- Answers questions slowly
- Loses consciousness (even briefly)
- Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes
- Can’t recall events prior to a hit or fall
- Can’t recall events after a hit or fall
More severe symptoms may be present when an athlete:
- Has one pupil larger than the other
- Is drowsy or cannot be awakened
- Has headache that gets worse
- Has weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination
- Exhibits repeated vomiting or nausea
- Slurs his speech
- Has convulsions or seizures
- Cannot recognize people or places
- Becomes increasingly confused, restless, or agitated
- Presents unusual behavior
- Loses consciousness (even a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously)
WF: What can parents do to speak with their coaches about concussions?
First off, make sure to introduce yourself to your child’s coach in a friendly and open manner so that the coach will always feel comfortable coming to you with any concerns regarding your child. You and your child’s coach want your child to be both safe and successful on the field, so the two of you will already bond over that commonality. From there I recommend, in a non-confrontational manner, asking how your child’s coach typically addresses concussion awareness and education with their athletes.
As the parent of an athlete, you should also be familiar with the CDC’s guide for coaches, which can help you understand what a coach needs to know or should be doing.
WF: What can parents do before their child hits the field?
"For parents specifically, make sure your child’s medical information is always on file and up-to-date with their sports organization and school. I also recommend learning whom the trainer or medical professional is for your child’s sports team, and whether or not he or she is present during games or practice. You should always know who is in charge of medical care or whom to ask for in the event your child gets injured.
Concussion education doesn’t just stop once your child hits the field though, in fact, it needs to be reinforced especially after games and practices. Make an extra effort to celebrate when your child makes a play that has been completed with good form and technique. If you see your child making plays that are overly violent, talk to your child about it immediately after the game. If your child says that was how he was taught to play, consider following up with your child’s coach to review how you can help reinforce safe play with your child.
Good form and technique can be challenging to learn in large team practices or camps so another option that parents can explore in order to keep their child safe at practice and in competition is private coaching. Especially for sports that have high incidences of concussions, like football and soccer, it's important to ensure your child receives proper instruction from a qualified professional when it comes to skill development. The more support from a team and private coach, plus practice, the better for your child's safety, success and happiness."
Jordan Fliegel, CoachUp CEO and Founder, experienced the benefits of private coaching first hand. “CoachUp’s mission is to change the trajectory of kids lives through sport. We’re a brand that is inspirational and trustworthy. We’re here to support athletes and coaches who want to better themselves, in sports and in life. Everyone should feel supported to achieve their dreams, whether that is to finish a 5k race, make the team next season, or to become a professional player.”