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Prevent Sports-Related Head Injuries

From the basketball court to the soccer field, participation in a youth sports program benefits children by teaching them the importance of teamwork, exercise and sportsmanship. But sports-related injuries, including traumatic brain injuries such as concussions, can occur in any sport or recreational activity. As a parent or coach, you play a key role in preventing concussions and knowing how to respond when they occur.

The Department of Health reports that each year in Tennessee, 8,000 people are admitted to the hospital with a brain injury. Children ages 0 to 4 years and adolescents ages 15 to 19 years are most likely to sustain a TBI, of which 75 percent of the cases are concussions.

What’s a Concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury caused by a bump or blow to the head. You can’t see a concussion. Signs and symptoms of concussion can show up right after the injury or may not appear or be noticed until days or weeks after the injury—even after a mild “ding” to the head. Young children and teens are more likely to get a concussion and take longer to recover than adults.

The Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion

If a child has experienced a bump or blow to the head or body during a game, practice or other activity, look for any of these signs. If you believe a child may have a concussion, seek medical attention right away.

Signs Observed by Parents, Guardians or Coaches

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Is confused about assignment or position
  • Forgets an instruction
  • Is unsure of the game, score or opponent
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Shows behavior or personality changes
  • Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall
  • Can’t recall events after hit or fall

Symptoms Reported by Athlete

  • Headache or “pressure” in head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Confusion
  • Does not “feel right”

What Should I Do If a Child Has a Concussion?

  1. Seek medical attention right away. A healthcare professional will be able to decide how serious the concussion is and when it is safe for the child to return to sports.
  2. Keep the child out of play. Concussions take time to heal. Don’t let the child return to play until a healthcare professional says it’s OK. Children who return to play too soon—while the brain is still healing—risk a greater chance of having a second concussion. Concussions that occur after the first concussion can be very serious. They can cause permanent brain damage.
  3. Tell the child’s coach about any recent concussion. Coaches should know if a child had a recent concussion in ANY sport. The child’s coach may not know about a concussion a child received in another sport or activity unless you mention it.

Sports Safety Tips

Every sport and activity is different, but there are steps children can take to protect themselves from concussion.

  • Ensure that they follow their coach’s rules for safety and the rules of the sport.
  • Encourage them to practice good sportsmanship at all times.
  • Make sure they wear the right protective equipment for their activity (such as helmets, padding, shin guards, and eye and mouth guards). Protective equipment should fit properly, be well maintained and be worn consistently and correctly.

Click here to learn other injury prevention tips. 

What’s the New Tennessee Youth Sports Concussion Law?

In April 2013, Tennessee passed a new youth sports concussion law designed to reduce youth sports concussions and increase awareness of traumatic brain injury. 

The law:

  • Requires coaches, youth athletes and their parents to sign a concussion information form before competing
  • Requires removal of a youth athlete who appears to have suffered a concussion from play or practice at the time of the suspected concussion
  • Requires a youth athlete to be cleared by a licensed healthcare professional before returning to play or practice

The law covers public and private school sports, as well as recreational leagues for children under age 18 that require a fee. All sports are covered.

Get the Required Forms

Click here to find the required forms that parents, athletes and coaches must sign under the new sports concussion law. 

Need More Info?
The Traumatic Brain Injury Program was established by the Tennessee General Assembly to address the needs of individuals who have sustained a brain injury, as well as the needs of their family members and primary caregivers. 

Project BRAIN provides local resource teams for schools, in partnership with the Tennessee Disability Coalition and local hospitals, to train educators, families and health professionals who support students with TBIs, and improve educational outcomes for children with brain injuries in Tennessee.