Because football is the sport with the highest number of concussions, and because allowing a player who has experienced concussion signs or symptoms to return to the field before those symptoms have fully cleared puts him at risk of catastrophic injury or even death from second impact syndrome, it is critically important that a concussion education and safety meeting of coaches, parents and players be held before every season.
But even if the season is well underway, as is the case now, it is never too late to hold such a meeting.
Ideally, the meeting should include presentations by:
1. Medical doctors familiar with the grading and evaluation of concussions and return to play guidelines to educate parents on the important role they play in their child's recovery from a suspected concussion, especially in terms of:
- checking for signs of deteriorating mental status requiring immediate hospitalization,
- ensuring that their child gets the cognitive rest required,
- monitoring for continuing signs and symptoms of post-concussion syndrome that must clear completely before an athlete should be allowed to return to play, and
- educating their child about the dangers they face if they fail to report or under-report symptoms or begin playing again before symptoms have cleared.
2. Former athletes who can share personal stories about the consequences of continuing to play with concussion symptoms and/or the long-term health consequences of multiple concussions, such as reoccurring headaches, depression, and concentration and memory problems.
3. Parents of concussed athletes who can emphasize how critical it is that, in making the all-important return-to-play decision, parents put a child's long term future and well-being above short-term athletic success by continually evaluating, along with their child if she is old enough to participate in the decision-making process, whether the risk of long-term injury, such as chronic major depression or early onset of Alzheimer's down the road, may make ending a career the best choice.