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Concussion Training for Basketball Players and Coaches

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It used to be that the only injury a basketball player really had to worry about was a sprained ankle. Sure, there was the occasional fat lip or split eyebrow caused by a flying elbow but sprained ankles were by far the biggest worry in terms of injury. However, as players have become bigger, stronger, and quicker there have been drastic increases in knee and head injuries at all levels of play.

When a knee is injured it is fairly obvious to almost everyone in the gym and the athlete is usually cooperative when the coaching steps in to intervene. Unfortunately, that is not the case with concussions which is s traumatic brain injury that can affect how the brain functions. Many times the athlete doesn't even realize that he is hurt and is extremely resistant to any kind of medical attention, especially if it involves removing him from the game.

It is during these situations where a coach must step in and put the long term health and safety of his players before anything else.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the following signs and symptoms may indicate that the athlete has suffered a concussion and should be acted upon immediately:

Signs Observed by Coaching Staff

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Is confused about assignment or position
  • Forgets an instruction
  • Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Shows mood, 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" or is "feeling down"

If for any reason a coach suspects that one of his players has suffered a concussion, he should adhere to the CDC's four step protocol even if the athlete swears he is fine:

1. Remove the athlete from play. Look for signs and symptoms of a concussion if your athlete has experienced a bump or blow to the head or body. When in doubt, keep the athlete out of play.

2. Ensure that the athlete is evaluated by a health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussion. Do not try to judge the severity of the injury yourself. Health care professionals have a number of methods that they can use to assess the severity of concussions. As a coach, recording the following information can help health care professionals in assessing the athlete after the injury:

  • Cause of the injury and force of the hit or blow to the head or body
  • Any loss of consciousness (passed out/knocked out) and if so, for how long
  • Any memory loss immediately following the injury
  • Any seizures immediately following the injury
  • Number of previous concussions (if any)

3. Inform the athlete's parents or guardians about the possible concussion and give them the fact sheet on concussion. Make sure they know that the athlete should be seen by a health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussion.

4. Keep the athlete out of play the day of the injury and until a health care professional, experienced in evaluating for concussion, says they are symptom-free and it's OK to return to play. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first-usually within a short period of time (hours, days, or weeks)-can slow recovery or increase the likelihood of having long-term problems. In rare cases, repeat concussions can result in edema (brain swelling), permanent brain damage, and even death.

It should go without saying that all head injuries are serious and can have long lasting effects on a player's life. Many schools and organizations are requiring that coaches go through training in the recognition, treatment, and prevention of concussions. This link will take the reader to an online concussion training offered by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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