Gaps in return-to-play awareness put child athletes at risk
WASHINGTON — Lack of knowledge regarding post-head injury return-to-play standards among parents and coaches puts child athletes at risk for further injury, according to data presented at the 2015 AAP National Conference and Exhibition.
“Our study’s findings are important because they point to action gaps that must be filled to ensure that all youth athletes have an advocate for the safety of their developing brains on the field of play,” Edward J. Hass, PhD, director of research and outcomes at the Nemours Foundation in Wilmington, Delaware, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “We believe that continued education and awareness-building on the symptoms and implications of concussions will result in correct return-to-play protocols being followed. Doing so will not prevent initial injuries, since there can’t be perfect control in live sports settings. But following correct and established return-to-play protocols will prevent the further brain injury that can occur without appropriate medical attention and time to heal.”
Edward J. Hass
Hass and colleagues surveyed parents and coaches to gauge how they would react in a return-to-play situation. The cohort consisted of 339 noncoaching parents with a child aged younger than 18 years, 86 coaches with children aged younger than 18 years, and 89 coaches without children aged younger than 18 years. Participants were questioned on return-to-play decision-making factors after a child sustained a head hit. These included urgency for seeking medical attention, whether athlete concussion news stories were an influence and whether a child should be allowed to fall asleep after incurring a head hit.
More than 40% of coaches and 50% of parents responded that they would act less strictly than the correct return-to-play standards mandate. The researchers wrote that child athletes could be at risk 20% of the time when a parent or coach responds this way.
The researchers also found that 25% to 50% of parents and coaches would not seek ED treatment for symptoms requiring immediate attention. Analysis of responses revealed that 75% of parents would “take no chances” in seeking medical help, while 25% would “watchfully wait.”
“One group’s typical response was to ‘take no chances’ and seek immediate medical attention, while the second group was more likely to engage in ‘watchful waiting’ and delay seeking medical attention,” Hass said in a news release. “Our research leads us to believe the latter group was not adequately informed about the implications of key symptoms pointing to a possible concussion.” – by David Costill
Hass EJ, et al. Abstract 29614. Presented at: AAP National Conference and Exhibition; Oct. 24-27, 2015; Washington, D.C.
Disclosure: The researchers reported no relevant financial disclosures.