Study: Coaches still not observing proper concussion practices

Even though football helmets have become safer over the years, football is still responsible for 47 percent of all concussions observed in recent study. The sport with the second-most concussions – girls' soccer – did not even come close to that total, with 8.2 percent.

These incidents were part of the nearly 2,000 concussions – 13.2 percent of all high school sports injuries – reported during the 2008 to 2010 academic years, according to a study published in January's American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Even though many of these injuries were not considered to be serious, as symptoms vanished within a few days or week, many coaches still were found not to have practiced proper concussion safety practices. About 2 percent of athletes who suffered concussion returned to action the same day they sustained the injury, even though many state laws prohibit youth athletes doing so.

In fact, coaches in 12 of the 20 sports studied were found to have allowed or encouraged this practice. Instead of allowing this to happen, researchers recommend that coaches force youth athletes wait up to a week to return to play.

"Any time there is a suspected concussion, it has to be automatic that the athlete is removed from competition or practice and is not returned until he or she is symptom-free at rest, have passed a baseline test and also have passed a test indicating the athlete is symptom-free after exertion," Dr. Anthony Kontos, from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

Along with state laws mandating safe concussion reporting and treatment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has addressed the issue through its "Heads Up: Concussions in Youth Sports" initiative, which is intended to educate coaches, parents and youth athletes about the dangers of concussions.

Coaches and parents must encourage youth athletes to wear the correct baseball helmets and lacrosse equipment necessary to prevent concussions on the playing field.

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