Safety gear is crucial for contact sports but there is no concussion-proof helmet. Safety specialists offer some tips for preventing and managing concussions:
—Wear helmets and other recommended protective equipment that is properly maintained and fitted. That includes always buckling the helmet's chin strap, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
—Know signs of a concussion, which include confusion, weakness, appearing dazed or stunned, lack of co-ordination, mood or behaviour changes, and even a brief loss of consciousness.
—Ask whether a child's coaches are trained in concussion prevention and management, and who on the sidelines is responsible for evaluating players after a hit, says Gerard Gioia of Children's National Medical Center, an adviser to USA Football.
—Ask whether players are taught head-safe techniques. For example, the CDC's "heads-up" campaign says football players shouldn't lower their head during a hit.
—Ask whether a league limits practice with live contact, Gioia says.
—Anyone suspected of a concussion should be taken out of play right away and sent for medical attention, the CDC advises.
—Players shouldn't be allowed back on the field until cleared by a trained professional, since concussions take time to heal. A second blow before full recovery is especially dangerous.
CDC info: http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/youth.html