When your child or your team is out on the field, anything can happen. They’re playing their little hearts out, and so are the opposition team. Within seconds injuries happen, from simple ankle sprains to shoulder injuries to more severe accidents such as concussions.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is, simply put, a traumatic head injury that usually occurs in sports such as horse riding, cycling, skiing or, very often, in high contact sports such as rugby.
Since rugby is such an intense, fast-paced, physical sport, a concussion can occur within seconds - much more easily than you’d think. The reason being that it doesn’t even have to be something/someone striking you near your brain and it doesn’t have to be that hard. A concussion can sometimes go completely unnoticed by coaches as well as parents.
It can occur either through a direct blow to the head or body, or from whiplash type movements of the head and neck when a player is tackled or collides with another player or the ground. This rapid change of movement doesn’t give the skull enough time to move with the child’s body, causing the brain to press against the skull.
Many parents and coaches are unaware that an unnoticed concussion is more serious than just a wound to the head.
Signs and symptoms
If you are suspecting that your child or a child in your team may have a concussion, here’s what to keep an eye out for:
Swelling and/or bleeding from a wound on the head
Suspected or confirmed loss of consciousness
Loss of responsiveness
Lying motionless on ground
Slow to get up
Struggling to balance/unsteady on feet
Dazed, blank or vacant look
Confused/not aware of what’s going on around them
What to do
At sports events there should always be trained medics who will act appropriately in an emergency incident. Medics should take care to remove a child from the field in the safest way i.e. paying special attention that the spine is immobilised.
Following this, a comprehensive assessment should be done on the child to decide whether the injured player is able to continue playing or is concussed and not fit to continue playing.
This is simply because following a concussion, the brain is fragile and easily susceptible to further damage in the event of another impact. Therefore, if you suspect a child has a concussion, make sure they are immediately removed from the game and that they do not return until the medics have made sure there are no signs of a concussion.
What not to do
DO NOT shake the child to keep them awake as this can easily worsen the injury.
Injuries are part of life and, unfortunately, unavoidable when it comes to a sport such as rugby. One cannot hinder a child from giving it all they’ve got on the field, simply in an aim to avoid the small chance of injury.
If you are a coach, make sure you talk to the on-site medic so that you can inform the parents of the situation as well as the precautions they should take at home.
If you are a parent, first of all, make sure you stay calm and understand the situation. Also, be wary of suspecting your child of being overly dramatic and never insist that your child should go back into the game after an injury. Trust the verdict of the trained medics on site, as well as the coach’s opinion. Rather safe than sorry.
Once at home, make sure your child is relaxed and comfortable at home and make arrangements with the school and teachers regarding your child’s school work. Avoid too much activity as well as screen time.
The best medicine for a concussion is rest so that the brain can recover from the trauma.
It is advised that schools and coaches get on board with the development of equipment and training methods to educate players on what could happen and how they can try and prevent it.
Zatsa provides South African schools, parents, and coaches with an easy-to-use platform to administrate and manage school sports events. It is the only locally available solution that enables two-way communication between schools and parents. Sign your school up today to download the beautifully-designed Zatsa mobile app which puts all the details of your children's sports events in the palm of your hand. With the simple click of a button, you can confirm or decline your child's participation, as well transportation requirements.
A guide to concussion in Rugby Union (http://www.irishrugby.ie/downloads/IRFU-Guide-to-Concussion%282%29.pdf)