A recent survey of coaches and parents suggests a possible awareness gap regarding when to allow child athletes to return to play after experiencing a concussion.

According to the survey, more than 40% of coaches and more than 50% of parents said they would feel comfortable allowing child athletes to return to play before getting an OK from their doctor.

This is contrary to medical guidelines on caring for athletes after experiencing a hit to the head, according to a media release from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A research team led by Edward J. Hass, PhD, director of research and outcomes at the Nemours Center for Children’s Health Media, conducted the survey, and received responses from a total of 506 parents, coaches who are also parents of children aged 18 or younger, and coaches who do not have children 18 or younger. The parents and coaches completed the survey during a visit to the Nemours Center website.

The survey results were part of a study, “Post-Head Hit Return to Play Awareness in Parents and Coaches,” which Hass presented during the recent 2015 American Academy of Pediatrics Conference & Exhibition in Washington, DC.

Hass notes in the release that the responses mean that for 20% of the time, child athletes would lack proper attention after head hits. Furthermore, symptoms requiring emergency room treatment would not receive such urgent attention 25% to 50% of the time.

According to the survey results, it’s not that parents don’t recognize their child has a symptom such as headache, dizziness, or vision problems; it’s that they don’t realize these symptoms mean a possible concussion. Parents who responded to the survey identified as taking one of two approaches to seeking medical attention after a head hit, based on certain symptoms, the release explains.

“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,” Hass says in the release. “Our research leads us to believe the latter group was not adequately informed about the implications of key symptoms pointing to a possible concussion.”

Hass also notes in the release that the magnitude of these findings is underscored by the fact that tens of millions of children age 18 and younger play some organized sport each year.

Per the survey, news coverage of athlete concussions has had a tendency to make parents of active student athletes more vigilant on the players’ behalf. However, according to the survey, one in four parents whose children do not currently play sports said that such concerns would make them keep their child out of sports, the release explains.

“While that is certainly acting on the side of caution, it also keeps a child from experiencing the benefits of sports,” Hass explains.

“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,” he adds.

[Source(s): American Academy of Pediatrics, Science Daily]