Reducing the Risk of Concussion in Sport (a How-To Guide for Coaches)

As any coach knows, it’s no easy feat managing the many responsibilities that come with leading of a group of young athletes. Whether it’s football, hockey, or a non-contact sport like cheerleading or baseball, all coaches must consider the dangers and impacts of head injuries and prioritize their athletes’ safety and wellbeing above all else. While there are ways to reduce risk and probability, there is no definitive way to prevent concussions from occurring while engaging in activities like contact sports. In addition to familiarizing oneself with the signs of a concussion, there are a number of additional steps a coach can take to reduce the risk of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries from hurting their players, teams, and communities.

  1. Encourage fair play and sportsmanship
    First and foremost, coaches should emphasize the importance of treating other players with fairness and respect, regardless of whether the athletes are on your team or your opponent’s. All players should be aware that the consequences of reckless or unsportsmanlike actions can result in serious injuries with long-term effects.

  2. Educate athletes on the dangers of concussions and their signs
    In addition to teaching athletes about the damaging effects of brain injuries, coaches and players need to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of concussions. A good coach should make sure that both they and their athletes can recognize a concussion before it’s too late.

  3. Limit contact during practice
    In order to limit the chances of a brain injury from occurring, coaches should concentrate on running drills that aren’t especially injurious, strenuous, or overly aggressive. While contact sports often require training with contact drills, coaches don’t need to cut these drills out completely, but should consider the risks and repercussions each time they run them. Despite concerns that limiting these drills might put athletes more at risk during games, the New York Times reported that fewer contact drills do not make youth athletes any more susceptible or vulnerable to hits to the head during games.

  4. Teach proper technique
    Accidents happen in sports, however many injuries can be prevented by better informing athletes of correct technique. Practice clearly describing and demonstrating technical methods and approaches so athletes are able to understand how to perform a skill without putting themselves, their teammates, or their opponents at any additional risk.

  5. Ensure equipment and helmets are in good condition
    Old or faulty equipment is often to blame for injuries in athletics. Verifying that gear is in adequate condition will help protect your team from preventable accidents and injuries.

  6. Keep a trainer on hand
    If an accident or concussive collision does occur, it is always a good idea to have a trainer nearby to assess the impact and the extent of an athlete’s injury. Athletes who experience possible concussions should never return to play until they have been cleared by a medical professional, or they risk exacerbating their injury, potentially with devastating effects.

When in doubt, coaches should always err on the side of caution. If a player is potentially concussed, it is the coach’s responsibility to prevent them from further harm; resist the urge to keep a player in until they can be evaluated by a medical professional. No game is worth further damaging a traumatic brain injury. For more information on concussions, check out the links below: