What do Sidney Crosby and Colt McCoy have in common?  Both play professional sports and both have suffered severe concussions.

Colt McCoy is the quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.  In a game against the Piittsburgh Steelers on December 8, McCoy took a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit.  McCoy was laid out on the turf and was taken out of the game, but was allowed back in the game after missing 2 plays.  According to the coach, McCoy did not complain of any symptoms of a concussion and the medical staff followed all NFL guidelines.  The concussion was not diagnosed until after the game, when he began to show classic signs and symptoms.  The Browns’ medical and coaching staff had a myriad of excuses for not, at the very least, showing more concern for McCoy’s health and the possibility that he had suffered a concussion.  Anyone witnessing the hit and McCoy lying on the turf should have stepped up and demanded an appropriate evaluation.  Any way you spin it, there is no way McCoy should have been allowed back in the game.

Sidney Crosby plays hockey for the Pittsburgh Penguins.  He is considered by many to be the best player in today’s NHL.  Crosby suffered a concussion in January 2011 and did not play for the rest of the 2011 season and for the first 20 games of the 2011-12 season.  Last week his concussion symptoms returned after being elbowed in the head.  He is out indefinitely.  Some wonder if this is the end of his career.

These events have gotten significant attention,  because they involve professional athletes.  But the risks to young athletes are no less.  Young men and women playing football, soccer, hockey, wrestling, and other sports are suffering from concussions and their aftermath everyday!  High schools and youth athletic programs don’t have the resources available to professional sports.  Parents and coaches must educate themselves about the risks associated with traumatic brain injury and the signs and symptoms of concussions.  They must provide the best equipment to reduce the risk of injury.  Parents and coaches must advocate for rules and policies that put the health and well-being of the student athletes as the highest priority.

Here is a good place to start:  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an online training course: Heads Up-Concussion in Youth Sports.

Read more about concussions and traumatic brain injury on the VisionHelp blog.

Read more about the Illinois College of Optometry and the Chicago Concussion Coalition.