Youth Sports Concussions

By Fred Engh

With football season around the corner, the buzz is about concussions—and what youth sports programs are doing to ensure the safety of youngsters strapping on helmets.

I checked in with some Certified Youth Sports Administrators (CYSAs) to see what their programs are doing when it comes to concussions and the safety of young athletes. Here’s what they had to say:

Dorene Bruce, President of Hamburg (N.Y.) Little Loop Football and Cheerleading: “We are fortunate to have a set of parents that are emergency-medical technicians (EMTs). But we have a protocol book which was developed a few years ago, and through our league all coaches must complete a concussion training course.

“Once a child is suspected of having a concussion, he is taken out of practice or play for that day/night. We recommend parents have the player seen by a physician and require a doctor's note for return to play. If the child is found to have a concussion, he cannot practice or play in a game for a minimum of seven days, or until the child is symptom-free. Once evaluated, our EMT has an injury report that is filled out and is sent to the league’s insurance administrator.  

“I, as president, am on the sidelines for every game and practice, as is the commissioner, who shares the same philosophy for safety.

“If a child sustains a hit, but shows no symptoms of concussion at that time, he is removed from play/practice, and the parents are advised of the symptoms to watch for. If none show up, the child may return to the next practice. The coach usually makes a follow-up call the next day.

“For any injury that results in a child being sent to the hospital, he may not return to play without a doctor’s note.

“We use only five-star-rated helmets for our football players, and the commissioner is trained to properly fit the helmets; this is a key factor in helping to prevent a concussion. We send all the helmets out to be recertified prior to the start of the season. While this may only need to be done once every three years, it makes us feel confident that every helmet is in top-notch condition. The league takes part in the USA HEADS UP football program, and we have a player-safety coach to show players how to tackle properly to reduce the chance of injury.

“I feel every youth sports league should make it mandatory to have a Concussion Protocol in place. These are young kids who have their whole lives ahead of them, and it is our responsibility as administrators to see that every possible effort to keep them safe is implemented.” 

Tory Miller Mocock, Facilities & Program Supervisor III, Raleigh (N.C.)

Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department: “The city of Raleigh actually just put a concussion policy in place. First, all staff and head coaches are required to take some type of concussion training. We have taken the NAYS concussion training, and the football coaches and staff have taken the HEADS UP training.

“Our policy is clear: If players are removed from play due to a suspicion of concussion, whether in practice or in a game, they must receive clearance from a medical professional before being allowed to come back to practice or games. If participants choose not to seek medical clearance, they can receive a prorated refund or credit on their account, but they will not be permitted to play for the city of Raleigh.

“All parents are encouraged to get baseline testing done before the season starts, something we have tried to set up with local hospitals in a partnership.

“This is a new policy for us and we will be implementing it for the fall baseball/softball leagues, cheerleading, and football.

“We also provide coaches with a “what to look for” checklist in regards to concussions.

“In this day and age, we must provide training and take these issues seriously. I encourage all departments to start the training process and work up to a concussion policy.”

Miste Adams, Recreation Superintendent for the National Trail Parks and Recreation District in Springfield, Ohio: “Ohio has the return-to-play law. Any player suspected of having a concussion must be removed from play and evaluated. Here is our protocol:

  • Coaches, referees, or officials shall remove any athlete exhibiting the signs and symptoms of a concussion during practice or a game. The athlete cannot return to play on the same day that he or she is removed.
  • The athlete is not permitted to return to play until he or she has been assessed and received written clearance by a licensed health-care provider.
  • Written clearance must be submitted to the National Trail office.
  • Once written clearance has been received, the league coordinator will notify the athlete and the team’s coach that the athlete has been cleared to return to play.
  • Failure to follow this protocol properly may result in the athlete being removed from the league.

“If a child is removed from play, the coach notifies our office, and it is noted in the files. We then wait for the release form either from the parent or the coach (a parent often gives the form to the coach). We have put this procedure in motion a few times each season. It is nice for us because it is defined by the law."

Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla. He can be reached via email at To join more than 3,000 communities by starting a NAYS chapter, visit or contact Emmy Martinez at or (800) 729-2057.