Concussion must be taken extremely seriously to safeguard the short and long term health and welfare of players, and especially young players.
The majority (80-90%) of concussions resolve in a short (7-10 days) period. This may be longer in children and adolescents and a more conservative approach should be taken with them. During this recovery time however, the brain is more vulnerable to further injury, and if a player returns too early, before they have fully recovered this may result in:
- Prolonged concussion symptoms
- Possible long term health consequences e.g. psychological and/or brain degenerative disorders
- Further concussive event being FATAL, due to severe brain swelling – known as second impact syndrome.
What should players do to return to play (RTP)?
The routine return to play pathway is shown in the diagram below:
- Individuals should avoid the following initially and then gradually re-introduce them:
- o Computer games
- o Driving
- It is reasonable for a student or Adult to miss a day or two of academic studies or work but extended absence is uncommon.
- Start Graduated Return to Play (GRTP) once all symptoms have resolved and cleared to do so by a healthcare professional (HCP) or doctor (for children).
- In young players a more conservative Graduated Return To Play approach is recommended, and it is advisable to extend the amount of rest (routinely this should be two weeks/14 days) and the length of the GRTP.
- As part of the process it is also prudent to consult with the young person’s parents to ensure that their academic performance has returned to normal prior to commencing their GRTP. The school environment obviously helps with this liaison with educational experts.
It must be emphasised that these are minimum return to play times and in players who do not recover fully within these timeframes, these will need to be longer. With regards to Community American football teams who do not see players on a daily basis, cooperation with the player’s family member, friends or team mates is encouraged to ensure the GRTP is strictly followed.