Thursday, September 12, 2013

Coach gets failing grade in concussion training

Our state youth soccer association now requires all coaches to take an on-line training session (like this one from the CDC) about concussions.  This is a good thing because concussions of boys and girls can be serious, especially if the child is prematurely permitted to play and experiences a second one.  Here's the policy:

The Massachusetts Youth Soccer policy on concussions is intended to be clear and unambiguous so as to accurately reflect the seriousness of concussion-related injuries and our unwavering commitment to keeping our children safe.

A player removed from participation as a result of a head injury or symptoms similar to those of a concussion shall not be permitted to return to play to any extent until they have provided their team coach with a written unconditional “Medical Clearance to Return to Play” from a licensed Medical Doctor.

It is our expectation that this policy will clarify protective measures for all involved in youth soccer in Massachusetts and simplify communication between coaches and parents when concussion related issues arise. 

The training and policy are supposed to make it easy for a coach.  If the child is disoriented or dizzy following a head injury, or experiences several other symptoms (see below), we pull them off the field for the duration of the game.  Referees are likewise instructed to enforce this policy.

Today, when refereeing an under-14 boys game, after a collision in front of the goal, the goalkeeper started to walk off the field complaining of a head injury and dizziness.  Imagine my surprise when the coach came out onto the field and started to try to convince the boy that it was "not a very hard hit."  I intervened and said that he would have to leave the field.

The replacement goalie was excellent and made some terrific saves.  Nonetheless, the coach tried to replace him 15 or 20 minutes later.  I was some distance away and didn't recognize it as the same boy who had been injured, but my assistant referee, a high school boy, did.  He came running out to inform me and to make the point that the boy was not permitted back on the field absent medical approval.  Of course, we sent him back to the sidelines.  Who knows what kind of persuasion the coach had used on the sidelines to encourage the boy to re-enter the field?

After the game, in front of the other AR, I praised my AR for his good judgment.  He said, "I've had a concussion, and I don't want anyone to go through what I did."

Indeed.  It's time for the coach to retake the course.


Unknown said...

What a great story!

Kudos to you, and super kudos to your AR!

As you know, situations like this one take great courage from referees without regard to their chronological age. It is noteworthy that your (youth AR) took the decisive action they did to protect the players welfare.

The sad testament is that 2/3 of the trinity to protect players failed in this case.

Both the coach, and the players parents/guardians did not act in the players best interest. While I am more forgiving of parents who may not know the state of the regulations regarding concussions, the actions of the coach are concerning as it would seem to demonstrate an unawareness, or intentional sidestep of the clear guidance from MA Soccer.

As a follow on question (and I don't know the answer), should such action be reported as "misconduct"?

A slippery slope, but not sure if it is an unreasonable step.

Thanks for sharing!

Paul Levy said...

I did report it to the league president.

And also to the referee assignor, so he could pass along an "attaboy."

Unknown said...

This unfortunately occurs far too often. A couple of years ago, an official ruled a child out of a game and the coaches went nuts on the official. (The official was also an AT by trade.) The coaches found an oncologist in the stands (a parent watching) to clear the child to continue to play. The official was then black balled from the league the following year.