Perhaps the most significant health concern that all youth sports is timely addressing is the risk of concussions – and this is certainly true with hockey as well. USA Hockey and the New York State Amateur Hockey Association (NYSAHA) have issued new rule changes to reduce the risks of injury from checking at the 14U – 18U levels of play. They have also issued detailed protocols that all of our hockey coaches are trained on and must follow related to evaluating a possible concussion, and what must be done if a concussion is even reasonably suspected. As an Association, we believe it is important not just that parents understand the obligations of our coaches to assess and respond to concussions, but it also important for parents to have an understanding of the warning signs and symptoms of concussions so that they are also attentive to addressing the risks.
Attached is the USA Hockey Concussion Management Program protocols that are provided to all of our coaches, as well as the Fact Sheet from the New York State Department of Health. A few items to highlight include:
First, if a player exhibits symptoms of a concussion – however briefly – coaches are required to sit that player out of the game or practice. That player is then not permitted to return to practice or games until he or she have been evaluated by a physician and cleared to return to play without restriction – and the ‘Return to Play’ form is completed and signed by the physician and parent. Just because certain symptoms such as nausea, dizziness or disorientation go away after a few minutes, and the player seems normal, does not mean the player did not sustain a serious concussion.
Second, concussion symptoms often do not manifest immediately - and sometimes are delayed for hours or longer. Coaches may not immediately see signs of a concussion, so it is important that parents are aware to be alert for any symptoms after a game. If a concussion is even reasonably suspected, a player should seek medical attention immediately.
Third, the science behind youth brain development has progressed rapidly in recent years and a lot more is now known about the details of head injuries, concussions, and traumatic brain injuries than just a few years ago It is why USA Hockey has worked with the pediatric medical community to develop ‘best practices’ for evaluating and treating head injuries in our game. The risks of exacerbating an injury, or having a short-term injury become long-term, is increased significantly when a concussion is not properly treated and the brain is not allowed the time to fully recover before resuming play. The risk of a concussion also goes up dramatically if a player has a history of prior concussions – which means extra care and caution should be exercised in such circumstances. No youth sports game or season is worth a long-term health risk, and so coaches are directed (and parents are asked) to be conservative and err on the side of caution in assessing a possible concussion.
We want all of our members to have as much information as possible about concussions so that they can be active partners with our coaches in looking out for all of our kids health and safety. Parents know their kids and the subtle signs they may exhibit more than our coaches ever will. Please take a few minutes to review the attached information. If you have any questions or concerns or concerns about the protocols or how a concussion is being addressed, please do not hesitate to address them with your child’s coach, your division director, our association coaching director.