With the advances in research and awareness in today’s society, few would argue that concussions are a serious injury. Yet, unlike a cut or broken bone, they can still be difficult to diagnose.
They can occur after big hits or minor collisions and symptoms can take as long as 48 hours to appear. With these challenges, it’s critical that everyone knows how to recognize the potential warning signs.
Teammates, Coaches and Parents
There are many signals teammates, coaches and parents can look for when assessing if a player has suffered a concussion. The key is knowing the signs and to be watching for them, especially after major impacts. Here are a few common signs a player may have a concussion:
- Appears to be dazed or stunned
- Is confused about assignment
- Forgets general hockey plays (breakout, etc…)
- Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
- Moves clumsily, displaying less balance or coordination than usual
- Answers questions slowly
- Loses consciousness (even temporarily)
- Shows behavior or personality change
- Can’t recall events before or after the hit or fall
- If one of your players starts showing any of these signals, there is a good chance they have suffered a concussion to some degree. The player should be removed from play immediately and evaluated by a trained professional prior to returning.
Players that notice a teammate exhibiting these signs should notify a coach immediately.
It’s also critical to educate and encourage players to report any symptoms they notice themselves. Players feel the effects of concussions first hand and can help detect them sooner. The following symptoms are often difficult to observe and should be reported by the player:
Balance problems or dizziness
Double or fuzzy vision
Sensitivity to light or noise
Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
Change in sleep pattern
Concentration or memory problems
In order for players to be an effective part of the diagnosis process, it is critical that coaches and parents empower them by asking questions about these symptoms following any potential head injury. To reduce the likelihood of players lying so they can stay in the game, be sure to emphasize the importance of honesty and how the number one priority is their long-term safety.
Any player reporting or displaying these symptoms needs to be removed from play until they can be evaluated by an experienced medical professional. Only trained physicians are qualified to determine if a concussion has been sustained. However, it is up to coaches, parents, and players to make the initial call on removal from play to avoid further damage.
Remember, you would rather miss one game than an entire season!