All school sports carry a risk of injury, and even death. About 20% of high school athletes sustain head injuries while playing a sport each season. The CDC recommends that despite the risk of head injury, sports can still be played, but schools and coaches should adopt safer practices—especially in detecting and preventing brain injury. In Colorado, our legislature has adopted such protective practices under the Jake Snakenberg Youth Concussion Act.
There are an estimated 60,000 concussions caused by high school sports each year and over 60% of them are related to football.
Second Impact Syndrome (SIS)
In sports, head injuries historically have been overlooked or ignored. A player who has suffered a concussion is at a substantially higher risk for suffering a second concussion before the first concussion is healed. This is called Second Impact Syndrome.
Second Impact Syndrome is far more dangerous than the original brain injury and can easily result in long-term damage or death. Proper response to concussion by a coach is critical in preventing SIS.
Common causes of school sports related brain injury include:
- Disregarding warning signs of brain injury
- Allowing a player to return to play after a brain injury, during the same game
- Allowing a player to return to play too soon after a brain injury
- Defective helmet
Who is responsible for detecting Second Impact Syndrome?
Players cannot be responsible for detecting their own sports-related brain injuries. It is the coach’s responsibility to recognize potential brain injuries and take proper action, including pulling the player from practice or the game and requiring confirmation of proper medical attention before allowing the player to return to play.
The CDC recommends that coaches look for the following warning signs:
- Appears dazed or stunned
- Is confused about assignment
- Forgets plays
- Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
- Moves clumsily
- Answers questions slowly
- Loses consciousness
- Shows behavior or personality changes
- Can’t recall events prior to hit
- Can’t recall events after hit
Symptoms reported by player:
- Balance problems or dizziness
- Double or fuzzy vision
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Feeling sluggish
- Feeling foggy or groggy
- Concentration or memory problems