10 Questions to Ask Your Youth Sports Org

How to approach YOUR child’s team about their Concussion Policy by Katherine Snedaker

I have listed the 10 questions below which from a flyer by Gerard A. Gioia, Ph.D., a Pediatric Neuropsychologist, which Steve Stenersen, President of US Lacrosse, emailed to me yesterday. Steve and I were having one of our semi-annual talks about how to empower parents to ask their leagues about concussion policy. Steve Stenersen has been championing concussion education for years and we have been talking back and forth about concussions since I first learned about concussions from an article in US Lacrosse Magazine in 2008. I have had the honor of meeting Dr. Gioia at an NFL meeting this fall where I had a chance to talk to him one-on-one and then hear him present to the NFL Health and Safety Meeting.  I was very impressed with him and look forward to presenting with him in DC on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013.

Dr. Gioio’s list of ten questions are a great way to start a conversation about concussion policy, but I need to add some suggestions on how, when and where to approach your child’s sports organization which I will call TEAM for short. Prez will stand for the President of TEAM.

1. Email or call Prez, the President of TEAM and ask to set up a time to talk face to face about concussion education with him or her. Don’t ask the coach these questions before or after practice. This is a management issue FIRST. If you cannot meet in person, then set up a call. I do not recommend you blast off an email with these questions to Prez.

2. Before the meeting, check out the Info Link Page with links to national policy is for many youth sports. For example of your child plays football or lacrosse, check out what USA Football or US Lacrosse is suggesting to their teams.

3. Start the conversation with Prez with a thanks for all he/she does and say you are just trying “to help the kids” and add to the existing program which has offered your child (say something positive here).

4. Ask the questions in a friendly tone and don’t forget to smile.  BE NICE. Most youth organizations are run by volunteers who have jobs and families and they do so much without any thanks.

4. LISTEN to what Prez says in return and what the existing plans are to create a concussion policy. Most organizations start small with baby steps as not to rock the boat.

5. If you get a blank stare from Prez or a “no” to the questions below, you have three choices:

  1. Say ok, and just hope the conversation will generate some thought or future action. You sign your child up anyway for the sport, and then attend all practices and games and watch out for your child.
  2. You find another league or sport for your child which has a concussion policy. In a nice email, let Prez know why you have left TEAM and again offer thanks for the past years.
  3. You offer to help create the policy by researching some options. This is a really exciting way to contribute to your child’s sport and to the larger community

I am available by phone or email to help direct you and there are many resources available on my website. Here are the questions and don’t forget to smile when you ask them.

Source: Parents Taking Charge of the Youth Concussion Issue
Gerard A. Gioia, Ph.D. Pediatric Neuropsychologist
Director, Safe Concussion Outcome, Recovery & Education (SCORE) Program Children’s National Medical Center 

Ten Questions to Ask Youth Sports Organizations By Dr. Gioia

In whatever sport you and your child choose, to feel more comfortable and confident with your child’s participation as it relates to concussion risk, do your homework and ask questions of the league and its coaches about how they handle head safety. As a parent, you need to feel at ease that safety of the youth athletes is a priority. We encourage parents to ask these 10 questions.

  1. Does the league have a general policy in how they manage concussions?
  2. Does the league have access to healthcare professionals with knowledge and training in sport-related concussion?
  3. Are the coaches required to take a concussion education and training course?
  4. Who is responsible for the sideline concussion recognition and response to suspected concussions during practice and games?
  5. Do the coaches have readily available the tools – concussion signs & symptoms cards, clipboards, fact sheets, smartphone apps, etc. – during practice and games to guide proper recognition and response of a suspected concussion?
  6. Does the league provide concussion education for the parents, and what is the policy for informing parents of suspected concussions?
  7. What is the policy regarding allowing a player to return to play? [Correct answer – when an appropriate medical professional provides written clearance that the athlete is fully recovered and ready to return.]
  8. Does the league teach/ coach proper techniques (e.g., blocking and tackling in football, checking in hockey and lacrosse) in a way that are “head safe” by not putting the head in position to be struck? If the player does demonstrate unsafe technique during practice or a game, do the coaches re-instruct them with the proper technique/ method? Is head and neck strengthening taught?
  9. If a contact sport, are there limitations to the amount of contact? How often (# days per week, # minutes per practice) do you practice with live contact? Is that any different than past years?
  10. How amenable is the league/ team / coach to accepting feedback from parents about their child’s safety as it relates to head safety?

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