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County Executive Astorino Organizes Safer Sports Conference On Concussions

About 200 parents, coaches and trainers attended Thursday night's "Safer Sports Conference on Concussions" at the Westchester County Center. Here, Dave Byrnes, Yorktown High School athletic trainer, details what to evaluate when a player is injured.
About 200 parents, coaches and trainers attended Thursday night's "Safer Sports Conference on Concussions" at the Westchester County Center. Here, Dave Byrnes, Yorktown High School athletic trainer, details what to evaluate when a player is injured. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Dave Byrnes, Yorktown High School athletic trainer and president of the Section One Athletic Trainers Society, is considered an expert on evaluating symptoms of concussions. He spoke at Thursday's Safer Sports Conference at Westchester County Center.
Dave Byrnes, Yorktown High School athletic trainer and president of the Section One Athletic Trainers Society, is considered an expert on evaluating symptoms of concussions. He spoke at Thursday's Safer Sports Conference at Westchester County Center. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Heads Up Concussion fact sheets and posters like this one can be found and downloaded online at www.cdc.gov/Concussion.
Heads Up Concussion fact sheets and posters like this one can be found and downloaded online at www.cdc.gov/Concussion. Photo Credit: Provided.CDC

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Remember when the quarterback's knee slammed into your chin? That aerial head-to-head collision on your daughter's soccer team? Or memory lapses after falls while cheerleading, wrestling, horseback riding or playing hockey?

You are not alone. About 80 percent of sports concussions go unreported, experts said Thursday during a "Safer Communities" conference at Westchester County Center.

"That's a pretty scary number,'' said Yorktown High School athletic trainer Dave Byrnes. "Most will not show physical signs."

That's why proper training and quick attention are vital once an athlete "goes down."

"One and out is what we say,'' Dr. Barry Jordan, assistant medical director at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, suggested to coaches and trainers. "When in doubt, leave them out."

Concussions are by far the most common sports injury, Jordan and others agreed, but they also are the most reversible if closely monitored.

Byrnes, who is president of the Section 1 Athletic Trainers Society, said coaches/trainers may be better suited to evaluate and understand symptoms displayed by an injured player than first-responders because they see the student-athlete on a daily basis.

One of the most common complaints is a headache, followed by feeling foggy and loss of memory or concentration. For a coaches' fact sheet about signs and symptoms, go to this website.

Youths who suffer sports concussions need physical and cognitive rest but should not be left alone, Jordan said. Most recover within 10 days; 90 percent are better after four weeks. "Avoid activities that bring on symptoms,'' Jordan said. "Let symptoms be the guide. . . .After a month, you need to return to activities."

It is now estimated there are between 1.6 million and 3.8 million concussions each year in sports alone -- more than 10 times traditional counts, according to Jordan.

Only 10 percent of sports injuries lead to loss of consciousness, Jordan said, so it's not a good indicator of a concussion. However, passing out can indicate a more serious head injury. Once an athlete suffers a concussion, he/she is four to six times more likely to suffer a second, more serious concussion -- which can mask life-threatening head injuries like skull fractures or brain hemorrhages.

County Executive Rob Astorino, who organized the conference, said, "I strongly encourage sports participation for all young people. But I'm equally advocating for smart, safer play and education on how to treat a myriad of injuries, should they occur."

While a helmet may save an athlete's life, they don't prevent concussions -- so-called "acceleration injuries" -- caused by a blow to the chin or thrust of the neck.

In soccer, a head-to-head or elbow-to-head collision is more likely to cause a concussion, but they are very rarely caused by heading the ball. Why do female soccer players suffer more concussions? "They have longer, thinner, narrow necks and they are a little smarter than men and report their symptoms,'' Jordan said, prompting a rare laugh from the audience of about 200.

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