How Do We Protect Gymnasts from Head Injuries?
Perspective from The Olympic Training Center Medical Staff on Concussions
The harder you train in gymnastics, the more likely chance that you’ll suffer a concussion. I’ve seen it time and time again at the club level, but do we give head injuries the respect they deserve?
We had a great discussion yesterday with two incredible providers here at The Olympic Training Center on working with athletes that have suffered a traumatic head injury, or concussion.
Kendall, a Certified Athletic Trainer, described in detail her sideline assessment of concussions and what to look for. Here are the key points to look for when your gymnast hits her head:
- Look to see if she is acting different than normal (crying, laughing, confused, etc.)
- Does she have the 100 yard stare and eyes glassed over
- Can she remember where she is, what time it is, what event she’s on, or what her last score was
- Can she remember what she had for breakfast
- Can she remember who the president is, or her teacher at school
Usually, you’ll notice right away, or your gymnast’s friends will notice right away that something is not right.
Once you’ve confirmed that your gymnast has a concussion, make sure she stops participating IMMEDIATELY.
And, when dealing with a possible head injury, it’s better to be safe than sorry! Nothing is more important than your gymnast’s brain, so protect it!
What Should A Coach Do Next If They Suspect A Gymnast Has A Concussion?
According to the CDC’s Heads Up Concussion in Youth Sports program, Here are your next steps:
- Remove the athlete from play
- Ensure that the athlete is evaluated right away by an appropriate health care professional
- Inform the athlete’s parents or guardians about the possible concussion and give them the fact sheet on concussion (CDC, Heads Up Concussion Program Fact Sheet for Gymnasts)
- Allow the athlete to return to play only with permission from a health care provider with experience in evaluating for concussions
Remember, Point 4 is so important! You have to get your athlete evaluated by someone who has dealt with concussions and is up to date on the most recent data, and information to bring your athlete back to play, in a safe, informative way.
Gymnast Care provider, Dr. Joshua Eldridge has been trained in the evaluation of concussions, but we also know serious concussions need more specialized treatment. We’ll recommend a course of action to get your athlete back in the gym as soon as possible!
Take Your Time Returning Back to The Gym
We have to remember our gymnast’s brains are still growing and developing. If we allow our gymnasts to return to play, before they are ready, it can cause serious injury, and in some cases, can cause long term psychological issues.
Take your time returning to play after a concussion. You can return to your same skill level, even with a break…look at Nastia Liukin! She spent significant time out of the sport, and now she’s returned at the highest of levels!
Take your time, and stay safe. We want to see you in the gym healthy and strong, both mentally and physically!
Resources to Help You Deal with A Gymnast’s Concussion
If you have other great resources on concussions, let us know and we can get them posted right here in our resource section!