We are turning the bend in the winter season and that means that pitchers and catchers will soon be reporting to Spring Training. Shortly, youth baseball coaches all over the country will be preparing for another season.
Now, before the season begins, is a great time to consider taking some steps to put Concussion Guidelines in place. A concussion can be caused not only from a jolt to the head directly, but from any force that causes the head, and brain inside, to move rapidly.
It is the 1st inning of a Little League playoff game and Johnny, the shortstop, has a forceful collision with the Bobby, the left fielder, when both were trying to field a blooper. Both fall to the ground, they get up, look for the ball to be able to make a play, and start to get back to their positions.
As a coach or as a parent, should you be concerned about a potential concussion? The answer is YES. The harder question is what do you do about that concern?
The coach should be aware to look for certain signs:
- Player appears dazed, confused about aspects of the game like the number of outs or where to throw the ball.
- Player moves clumsily or shows poor balance.
- Player answers questions slowly.
- Player shows mood changes.
- Player has short term memory loss for events before or after the collision.
The coach should also be aware of certain symptoms reported by the athlete such as:
- Vision changes
- Sensitivity to light
- Feeling sluggish
- Feeling more emotional or edgy
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Just not feeling right
If the athlete shows one or more of these signs or symptoms, the athlete should be taken out of play that day. The player should also be kept out of play until a health care professional says the player is symptom free and can safely return to play.
To not take this step is to potentially put the player’s life in danger from a second concussion if he/she is not fully healed from the first concussion. Second Impact Syndrome occurs because the brain, not fully healed from the first concussion, has a greater tendency to swell and create intracranial pressure that could lead to brain damage and death.
Let’s go back now to Bobby and Johnny. As coach, you see Bobby has no signs or symptoms of a concussion. But Johnny uncharacteristically, in the third inning, threw to the wrong base and in the 4th inning forgot the number of outs. After the inning, Johnny was crying in the dugout. When you asked if he was ok, he said yes. But he does seem to be rubbing his head. His dad says Johnny is fine when you express concern. What as a coach should you do?
Preparing for such a scenario now, before the season begins, will help relieve the coach of the pressure he will feel in this situation. Each league should have in place a set of rules or Concussion Guidelines that take discretion away from the coach. A child’s life may depend on this. What are your leagues rules and policies to safeguard your child?
In my next blog, I will discuss some steps your son or daughter’s youth league can take to make sure our children remain safe.
Tony Baratta is a trial attorney in Huntingdon Valley, PA who represents clients who have been seriously injured. He has coached all three of his sons in Northampton Little League Baseball and is currently on the board of Northampton Little League Baseball as its safety director. Tony Baratta is the founding partner at Baratta, Russell & Baratta and a member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BIAPA).