Implement a concussion management plan in your school district
Step 1: Develop safe concussion management guidelines
Remove the athlete from play immediately if a concussion is suspected and do not allow the athlete to return to play that day or at any time until they have written clearance from a medical professional. Concussion symptoms can take time to appear, sometimes hours or days after the injury.
Require written medical authorization (from a qualified medical professional) before allowing the athlete to participate in practice or games. Athlete must also be 100% symptom free at rest and during exertion (see below).
Follow the international graduated return to play guidelines. After the athlete receives medical clearance to return to play and is 100% symptom free at rest, it is important that they return to play using gradual return to play guidelines. If symptoms return during exertion, they need longer time to heal.
Step 2: Develop a concussion education plan
Washington State’s concussion law, known as the Zackery Lystedt Law, became effective in July 2009. Resources provided by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), are now utilized by state school districts and non-profit sports organizations and can be used as a guide for any school district.
Step 3: Educate everyone involved
Coaches need to replace “bell rung” or “ding” with the words “brain injury”. They should fully understand that if an athlete is returned to a game before their brain has healed, it can lead to a prolonged recovery or worse.
Athletes should be encouraged to speak up about their own symptoms and feel comfortable enough to tell an adult if their teammates are acting abnormally during practice or game.
Parents need to learn how to recognize the sometimes subtle signs that can be indicative of concussions. These symptoms can appear days or weeks after the injury. No athlete should return to play until they are 100% symptom free at rest and during exertion, and a medical professional has determined it is safe.
Step 4: Consider hiring an athletic trainer
Athletic trainers save lives and they are vital to the health and safety of student athletes. They can be one of the most important members of the team.
Step 5: Consider neuropsychological testing
Computerize testing before an injury occurs can provide valuable information that could help determine a return to play schedule for an injured athlete. Many school districts fund this testing to their athletes through booster clubs or other sources. After a head injury an athlete can be re-tested to determine if their results match their pre-injury state. The information provides trained medical professionals with a tool for managing concussion recovery.