Back-to-School

School Sports and Concussion

If you are a parent of a student athlete, this back-to-school reminder is for you.

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As school athletic teams gear up for fall and winter, it’s time to think about concussions: how to prevent them and what to do when they happen. Every parent, coach, and school official should make this part of their back-to-school routine.

When sports-related concussion is mentioned, most people immediately think of boys’ football or ice hockey. But while these sports produce the highest rate of concussion, girls are also at risk.

As reported last year by The Atlantic, Olivia Hayward, a 90-pound high school varsity soccer player, got knocked to the ground. At first, she worried about her injured wrist. But a few days later, she had no appetite, was bothered by light, and had a throbbing headache. She failed the simple test for concussion that her coach had her take. Her doctor finally determined that she had suffered whiplash and a concussion, her second. She missed 3 weeks of school, and her parents had to read her assignments to her. And she was among the lucky ones.

Concussion Suspected?

When student athletes display or report symptoms associated with concussion, most coaches remove them from play until a medical professional has conducted an examination. The general rule is, “When in doubt, sit them out.” Follow-up for a few days or weeks by a licensed health care provider is often recommended. Nearly all states require these measures by law.

Most children and teens will be able to return gradually to school and sports activities. Sometimes after severe or repeated concussion, support services are needed. Because a concussion is a bruising of the brain, it can affect learning and mood. Teachers might need to tailor assignments and exams to accommodate concussed students. School officials, teachers, educational specialists, school nurses, coaches, and parents should work together as a team to make sure that a student’s returning to school and/or sports activities occurs smoothly and is monitored.

Bottom line: Whenever you suspect a student athlete has suffered a concussion, have a licensed health care provider (physician or physician assistant) evaluate the situation.

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Important resource: The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) provides much useful information, including several videos, for parents, athletes, coaches, teachers, school officials, health providers, and others about sports-related concussion. Become informed and get involved!

Reducing Risk of Concussion

Risk of concussion varies by sport and, to some extent, by sex (girls might be at greater risk than boys in sports played by both). The following measures can reduce risk.

  • Athletes must wear protective equipment that is in good condition and appropriate for each activity. Be sure that it fits. (Remember: a person can still have a concussion even if wearing a helmet.)
  • Make sure that coaches limit hard physical contact especially during practice.
  • Check with school officials that their policies and procedures regarding concussion—both prevention and concussive events—reflect best practice and not just state law.
  • Ensure that your son or daughter understands the importance of following safety rules, and tell them to let you know if they have suffered any blow to the head during their sports activity.
  • Join others in making sure that state law, education regulations, and athletic rules incorporate the recommendations of experts in traumatic brain injury and its prevention.

A Final Word

Concussion is one form of traumatic brain injury that is widespread and serious. At Kathy’s Urgent Care, we evaluate one to two patients per week for concussion from all sources (falls, vehicle accidents, workplace injuries, sports activities, etc.).

For more information about symptoms and other aspects of traumatic brain injury, please see our previous blog post on this topic.

About Those Sports Physicals

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If you are a parent of a student who wants to play or try out for school sports, you need to be aware of required health screenings and physical examinations. Most schools require all participants or would-be participants in any form of sports activity to submit the results of a pre-participation physical examination. This must be done every year.

The State of Connecticut is no exception. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) requires completion of their Pre-Participation Physical Evaluation form by the student, his or her parent(s)/guardian, and a licensed physician.

The Pre-Participation Physical Evaluation

The physical evaluation consists of four major parts.

History

The student, with the help of his or her parent(s)/guardian, should complete this section prior to taking the form to a physician. Questions focus on the following general areas:

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  • General health history
  • Heart health questions about the student and family
  • Bone and joint questions
  • Specific medical questions

If any question is answered “Yes,” an explanation must be provided on the form or a separate sheet. Circle any question that you cannot answer so that you can discuss it with the physician.

Supplemental History for Athlete with Special Needs

This section provides an opportunity to identify any disabilities, visual or hearing impairment, allergies, use of special equipment, etc. There is also a section that allows identification of any past physical or medical difficulties.

Physical Examination Form

This section is completed only by the examining physician. It addresses the following areas:

  • Questions about mental and physical well being
  • Use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs
  • Medical examination of vital signs, musculoskeletal condition, and general fitness

The bottom of the form asks the physician to clear the student for all sports without restriction or without restriction but with recommendation for further evaluation or treatment. The physician may also withhold clearance for all sports, some sports, or in order to evaluate further.

The original copy of this form is retained in the physician’s office and can be amended at any time.

Clearance Form

The clearance form summarizes the conclusions of the physician regarding whether the student is cleared for all, some, or no sports activity. There is also a section to identify allergies and other emergency information.

Important Reminder: Submitting a Pre-Participation Physical Evaluation form for sports activity does not fulfill the requirement of submitting a regular Health Assessment Record as required by your school. Be sure to check with your school for specific policies.

Having a Pre-Participation Exam

Many families ask their regular physician or pediatrician to complete this examination. During the crush of back-to-school activities each year, obtaining an appointment in time is often not possible. In that case, or if you do not have a regular health care provider, go to an urgent care center.

When you go for your exam, please observe the following steps:

  • Download, print, and fill out your portion of the Pre-Participation Physical Evaluation form.
  • Reserve an examination time at the clinic if possible.
  • Bring your completed form with you.
  • Bring your student’s health insurance information and ID.
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If you live near one of our clinics in Wethersfield or Rocky Hill, CT, come to Kathy’s Urgent Care. We perform many of these examinations every year, and we can help you with any questions that you might have. We also treat minor sports injuries.

Authored by Dr. Tom Brown

Our clinics are open 7 days a week. Just call to reserve a time or walk in at your convenience. Our contact information is available on our website at www.kathysurgentcare.com.

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