Tom Savage, quarterback for the Houston Texans, took the snap. He dropped back into the pocket and the next thing he knew, he was shaking on the ground. He moved slowly and struggled to get up. After a quick evaluation, however, he came right back into the game.

It wasn’t long before he was removed again and re-tested. The diagnosis was confirmed: concussion. This situation reveals a glaring problem for all those who work in sports — there isn’t enough concussion awareness.

You don’t have to be a coach or a manager to make a difference when it comes to players’ safety. If you work in sports in any capacity or even if you frequently attend sporting events, you need to understand the severity of these common brain injuries.

Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know about concussions and how you can raise awareness and stay educated:

Concussions 101

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that affects brain function. According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms include headache or a feeling of pressure in the head, nausea, dizziness, and slurred speech.

While some symptoms occur instantly, others might be delayed for hours or even days after the injury. Common delayed symptoms are sleep disturbances, sensitivity to light and sound, irritability, and concentration and memory impairments.

If the concussion is not treated appropriately, the injured player can experience complications, like post-traumatic headaches, vertigo, and even second-impact syndrome.

The State of Concussions In Sports

The concussion conversation continues to build. In 2013, the book League of Denial was released, which was based on the documentary, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis. These projects center on traumatic brain injuries in the NFL, including  concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

While the NFL is under fire for their safety policies, player safety is an issue everywhere, including youth sports.

The company Head Case was founded as a grassroots organization to ‘protect young athletes from the risks of undetected cumulative concussions and afford them the opportunity for a lifetime of sports.’

They share some staggering statistics, highlighting the prevalence of concussions, including:

  • One in five high school athletes will sustain a sports concussion during the season
  • 33 percent of all sports concussions happen at practice
  • Cumulative concussions are shown to increase catastrophic head injury leading to permanent neurologic disability by 39 percent

Bottom line: Whatever your relationship is with athletes, you need to understand the severity of the situation. If you work in sports, attend a lot of sporting events, if your kids or friends or relatives play sports, even if you’re scouting — no matter what your involvement is, this knowledge is valuable. It could potentially save a life.

The Ethical Dilemma

Coaches and medical professionals often face a crossroads when it comes to addressing concussions in players. No matter what level or sport, everyone faces the important question — should I keep the player in the game?

Most coaches and medical professionals understand the simple mantra that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Heads Up campaign promotes — “When in doubt, sit them out.”

But what happens if these professionals forget or ignore their concussion training?

In the case of Savage, the Texans’ organization clearly made the wrong decision to let him return to the game. That move put Savage in more danger and could have caused severe brain damage.

There are so many outside pressures that coaches and sports medical professionals face. They might feel tempted to keep their better player in even though they could have a concussion. Or they may want to keep the momentum of the match moving quickly.

Whatever the reason, learn when it’s time for you to speak up and prevent injured players from staying in the game. It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure player safety.