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Concussion posterIt’s the time of year when Ohio’s children go back to school and start engaging in sports and other recreational activities again. The Ohio Department of Health is committed to helping raise awareness of the potential for traumatic head injuries and helping Ohio’s active students stay safe at home and on the playing field.

As Ohio’s children return to school, many of them also will be hitting the playing field or court for sports. Whether it’s football, cheerleading, soccer or or even just riding a bike to school, the Ohio Department of Health wants you to be on the lookout for concussions and other sports-related head and neck injuries. The possibility of a serious – even life-threatening – injury when participating in athletics means that players, coaches, administrators and parents should all know how to identify symptoms of a potentially serious condition, as well as take all preventative measures to ensure these sports are enjoyed safely by participants. A traumatic brain injury is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in this type of injury – but many do. The severity of a traumatic brain injury may range from “mild,” (a brief change in mental status or consciousness) to “severe,” (an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury).

More than 4,000 kids in Ohio are treated in emergency departments each year for sports/recreation related traumatic brain injuries, with a significant rise from 2,970 in 2002 to 5,167 in 2010, an increase of 74 percent.

Students participating in all types of sports and recreation should be well-informed about the dangers of concussions and other forms of traumatic brain injuries. For example, the changes in competitive cheerleading – which over the past two decades has transformed into an increasing acrobatic sport – have lead to significant rule changes and requirements, which should be enforced at all times. Women’s soccer players also face significant risk of concussion and other serious head injuries. According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, women’s soccer is second only to football when it comes to the number of concussions reported by young athletes.

Heads Up football poster

The new Ohio Return-to-Play law (effective April 26, 2013) requires that coaches, referees, or officials must remove a young athlete from play if the athlete is exhibiting the signs and symptoms of a concussion during practice or a game. These include:

• Appears dazed or stunned.
• Is confused about assignment or position.
• Forgets plays.
• Is unsure of game, score or opponent.
• Moves clumsily.
• Answers questions slowly.
• Loses consciousness (even briefly).
• Shows behavior or personality changes (irritability, sadness, nervousness, feeling more emotional).
• Can’t recall events before or after hit or fall.
• Any headache or “pressure” in head. (How badly it hurts does not matter.)
• Nausea or vomiting.
• Balance problems or dizziness.
• Double or blurry vision.
• Sensitivity to light and/or noise
• Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy.
• Concentration or memory problems.
• Confusion
• Does not “feel right.”
• Trouble falling asleep.
• Sleeping more or less than usual.

If you believe that your child has suffered a concussion, follow these recommendations:

• Do not let the child perform any strenuous activity or go back to playing in sports.
• Do not use aspirin or ibuprofen for headaches. Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) only.
• Encourage your child to rest and eat a light diet.
• Allow them to use ice packs on the head and/or neck to ease pain.
• Let them sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room.

You should also arrange for your child to be evaluated by a medical professional qualified and educated in concussion evaluation and management, such as an athletic trainer or sports medicine physician. Knowledge about concussions is rapidly evolving. The previous severity scales, such as a grade 1 or grade 3 concussion are no longer used. Preventing your child from going to sleep or to wake him or her every hour after a concussion is also an outdated practice. Don’t be afraid to ask the healthcare provider if he or she is aware of the up-to-date concussion protocols.

The Ohio Department of Health’s Healthy Ohio program has dedicated much of its time to educating Ohio’s students and parents on the importance of understanding and recognizing these types of injuries. For more information and valuable resources, please visit the Healthy Ohio Program.