The role of the coach in concussion management cannot be overstated. A coach that creates a safe and supportive environment for their players can go a long way in not only the prevention, but also the recovery from concussion injuries.
Have a plan: One of the best things you can do as a coach is have a plan in place should one of your players sustain a concussion. After an athlete has a possible head injury is entirely the wrong time to be figuring out how to manage the situation. Pushing your association to put standard protocols in place is a great step to ensure uniform management from all coaches.
Educate yourself, then your team: Understanding what a concussion is, what signs and symptoms to look for, and proper management are responsibilities of every coach. There are many concussion education resources and courses through reputable organizations available to help grow your concussion knowledge (see below). It is important to share that knowledge with other coaches, parents and your athletes.
Know your return to play stages: There are very specific return to play guidelines (see link). They are designed to provide coaches, players, and parents with a clear pathway to return to competition. It is important for coaches to understand the ins and outs of the protocol, and to develop drills, practice plans and strategies to implement with their athletes.
Keep the injured player in the loop: As was mentioned in the previous two blogs, low mood, isolation and anxiety are common with this injury. Doing little things like having time before or after practice for quieter/calmer team time that an injured athlete can participate in can help keep them engaged. Sending weekly messages or sport-specific homework can help the injured player stay sharp while they cannot practice.
When everyone plays their role we can safely and effectively get young athletes back on the field of play.