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If any athlete suffers a knock to the head during sports, it´s vital to get them checked out before they return to play. A medical professional can assess the injury and judge whether the player needs rest or hospital treatment.

Where young athletes are concerned, a new study argues that coaches and parents need more education on how to detect and respond to symptoms of concussion. This could help avoid the risk of further injury, the researchers said.

Presenting their findings at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in Washington, DC, last week, the researchers reported that more than 40% of coaches and 50% of parents said they would feel comfortable sending a young athlete back into the game before a doctor´s approval. This goes against medical guidelines on caring for athletes after a head hit.

The survey results mean that child athletes would lack proper attention after head hits 20% of the time, said lead researcher Dr. Edward J. Hass, director of research and outcomes at the Nemours Center for Children´s Health Media. What´s more, symptoms requiring emergency hospital treatment would not receive such urgent attention 25% to 50% of the time.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it´s not that parents don´t recognise that their child has a symptom such as headache, dizziness or vision problems; it´s that they don´t realise these symptoms mean a possible concussion.

“One group´s typical response was to ‘take no chances´ and seek immediate medical attention, while the second group was more likely to engage in ‘watchful waiting´ and delay seeking medical attention,” Dr. Hass explained. “Our research leads us to believe the latter group was not adequately informed about the implications of key symptoms pointing to a possible concussion.”

The study also found that, for some parents, concerns about concussion would make them keep their child out of sports.

“While that is certainly acting on the side of caution, it also keeps a child from experiencing the benefits of sports,” said Dr. Hass. “We feel that with continued awareness-building on safe return-to-play protocols, sports participation can be enjoyed by all children in as safe a manner as possible.”

Any athlete who plays contact sports and suffers a minor head injury should seek medical advice before continuing to play, UK charity Headway recommends.