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  • Apr1Mon

    Concussions: Protect Your Head

    April 1, 2019 Bridget Boadway
    Filed Under:
    Policies and Procedures, Vulnerable Sector

    For the past six summers, I have been the Sports Camp Coordinator for a week-long day camp.  Each year, we have approximately 60 campers ages 7 to 12 years old participating in various sports, including soccer, ball hockey, basketball, volleyball, as well as many large group games – all on varying terrain.  With the heightened excitement and energy that comes with group sports, one can only imagine that there would be an increased number of incidents, injuries and accidents.  And, there sure is!  There is a children’s camp that runs the week before our camp, and I would estimate that at Sports Camp we would probably have three to four times more incident reports to fill out than the non-sports camp program. 

    Since many camps are not run by sporting leagues, they often do not provide or require the typical equipment that comes along with each type of sport, ie. shin pads for soccer, or gloves and helmets for ball hockey.  A report by Dr. Natalie Yanchar, Associate Professor of Surgery and Emergency Medicine at Dalhousie University and Medical Director at IWK Trauma Care in Halifax, states that “without question” a helmet can reduce the risk of serious injury, such as a concussion. There are many sports and activities that don’t require a helmet at all (i.e. soccer and basketball), but there is still an elevated risk of head injury resulting in a concussion.

    So, what are some ways that we can reduce the risk of injury in these types of environments?

    Plan to Protect® has 3 points to note to keep your sports programs safer:

    1) Even-out the Playing Field! Team up children of similar ages, skill levels and sizes together.  This would work towards helping to make everyone satisfied and hopefully keep the level of play even and fair while at the same time reducing the risk of injury.

    2) Increase Supervision!  Ensure that you have a smaller ratio of children to leaders.  Our ratio was four to five campers for every one screened worker (still maintaining the two screened worker rule in each area of the facility), as opposed to the 10 elementary age students to one screened worker for lower risk activities.

    3) Rules Protect!  Before each session, explain and go over the rules with the children.  Ask them to reiterate the rules and boundaries back to you to ensure their understanding.  You are the referee! If the rules are broken, Stop the Game!  Have everyone take a breath, reiterate the rules again.  If dangerous play was taking place, warnings can be given or penalties, just like in the professional games.  The rules are there for the protection of all participants involved.

    It is not only in team sports and group activities that we have to be proactive in preventing injuries. Favourite summer sports like skateboarding, cycling, mountain biking, as well as any contact sports, are just a few others that require safety precautions.

    Back in the day, we use to fly down the street on our bikes or pop ollies on our skateboards – helmet-free! These were fun and memorable times, but we can now look back and see that there were so many “close calls” that could have resulted in serious injury.

    These days, we know better. These fun, family-friendly activities don’t have to be stopped outright, but we can put measures in place to create a higher level of injury prevention, so that our fun and games can remain safe.

    This brings me to, helmets! I believe that just like the automatic reaction we have to reach for our seatbelt to put on when we are in a vehicle, so should we train ourselves to automatically reach for our helmet before we step onto the ice or go barreling down a hill.  According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), nearly 30 percent of all sport-related brain injuries brought to Ontario and Alberta emergency rooms occur in children between the ages of 10 and 14. This is the age when kids are active, increasingly independent, and likely to participate in organized sports, whether at home or camp.

    After reading this data, I wondered how many of those incidents could have been lessened or prevented by putting certain safety measures in place, one of those being the mandatory use of helmets, particularly for high-risk sports like hockey, biking, football, and skiing. Regarding winter sports, Dr. Yanchar states that:

    “When it comes to winter, it’s important that Canadians get outside to play and enjoy our slopes. […] Wearing a helmet is important for all ages to prevent a fun day in the snow from ending in tragedy.” (CIHI, 2012)

    Something similar could be said for many sports played in all different seasons. HERE is a full list of signs and symptoms and topics related to concussion.

    We hope that creating an environment of awareness about the risks involved in these various types of fun activities will help you to make wise decisions about keeping safety and injury prevention a top priority for you and those whom are entrusted into your care.  Keep it safe, and keep it fun!

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