Letter: Toughen law on concussion education
Like many parents of teenagers involved in athletics, I worry about concussions and thought I had a good understanding of symptoms to watch for following a head injury. I realized I had more to learn after my 16-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a concussion.
As vice chair of the General Assembly's Children's Committee, I am working to make sure all parents in Connecticut are informed about concussion prevention and proper treatment.
In 2010, the Children's Committee championed legislation that established Connecticut as a leader in efforts to prevent concussions and improve awareness. The legislation led to extensive training for coaches (a three-hour course) that better equips coaches to prevent concussions and to identify them when they occur.
A few years back we set the standard for other states to follow, but we failed to extend our new law to include education for student athletes and their parents. Today, more than 80 percent of concussion laws in other states are stronger than ours because they include mandatory dissemination of concussion information to students and parents. It's vital that parents and athletes become better informed.
The Children's Committee is working to amend the current law to ensure that all parents of children involved in recreational and school sports receive information about concussions before the start of a season. Parents don't always know what to look for. When my daughter came home from a soccer practice and said she had hit her head, I asked the questions any informed parent would ask: "Do you have a headache? Do you feel nauseous? Is your vision blurry?" When she answered "no" to all three questions, I sent her to bed and let her return to school and practice the next day.
Parents of athletes should know:
Symptoms of concussion do not always present until days after the injury. For my daughter, it took three days for a headache to emerge.
Foggy thinking or mild confusion can occur prior to a headache.
Cognitive rest is as important as physical rest; this means taking a break from schoolwork is as important as taking a break from physical activity.
Healing brains are more sensitive and vulnerable to repeat concussions. Allowing the brain to fully heal from a concussion is essential to preventing long-term damage to the brain. Repeated concussions can have lifelong implications.
Helmets and headgear do not necessarily prevent concussion. It isn't just the direct hit to the head that we need to worry about. Concussion is often caused when the head is thrown and jerked and the neck is not strong enough to absorb the impact. Female athletes are more vulnerable to this type of concussion because they tend to have weaker neck muscles than boys.
Most concussions occur during practice.
The new legislation would also require parental consent before kids return to the playing field following a concussion. These are critical extra steps that will help parents partner with the coaching community to protect our children on and off the field.
State Rep. Kim Fawcett