As a coach you are a very influential person in your football club and usually the leader in determining the overall culture of the club and its practises. You will set the tone and standards in most things you do. As a result you are a key person in preventing concussions and managing them properly when they happen. Therefore you must understand the main elements of managing concussion and be able to act confidently in this aspect of your role. Following is some key information for coaches in this important area.
Concussion is a mild brain injury, caused by trauma that results in temporary dysfunction of the brain. When it occurs a player may experience symptoms and temporary loss of some brain skills such as memory and thinking abilities. It is important for coaches to be aware of signs of concussion which are often subtle.
Some of the possible symptoms of concussion:
Some of the signs you may observe:
If a player just seems to be not feeling their usual self - think of concussion.
One of your major responsibilities as a coach is your duty of care towards your players and their safety. This duty is highlighted when players receive a knock to the head and suffer a concussive injury.
In the best practice management of concussion in football, the critical element is the welfare of the player in both the short and long term. These guidelines should be adhered to at all times.
1. Removal from the game
Any player with a suspected concussion must be removed from the game. This allows the first aid provider or medical support staff time and space to assess a player properly. Generally, initial decisions in this area in community football will be made by the head trainer, unless the club has a medical doctor in attendance.
Trainers should not be swayed by the opinions of coaches, players, or others suggesting a premature return to play. Conversely, coaches must, in accordance with the AFL Coaches Code of Conduct, not put undue pressure on trainers or players to make such decisions.
A player with suspected concussion must be withdrawn from playing or training until fully evaluated by a medical practitioner and cleared to play.
2. Medical Assessment
All players with concussion or suspected concussion need an urgent medical assessment (with a registered medical doctor). This assessment can be provided by a medical doctor present at the venue, local general practice or hospital emergency department.
Players with suspected concussion, having been removed from the field, should not be left alone and should not drive a motor vehicle.
Refer the player immediately to hospital if:
3. Returning to play
It is important that concussion is managed correctly and that players do not return to play or training until they are fully recovered. It is critical that the basic principles of return to play decisions are followed.
A concussed player must not be allowed to return to play before having a medical clearance.
Decisions regarding return to play after a concussive injury should only be made by a medical officer with experience in concussive injuries.
Players should return to play in graded fashion, following a step wise concussion rehabilitation program. Player should be symptom free throughout the steps.
All of the previous steps apply with some further considerations.
Positive steps coaches should take to fulfil their responsibilities.
*This document has been published by the AFL as a position statement on the role of helmets and mouthguards in Australian Football. It is based on advice provided by the AFL Concussion Working Group and AFL Medical Officers' Association.
- July, 2012