What is a concussion?
A concussion is an injury to the brain, the result of either a direct blow or force to the head. This injury may cause changes to the brain which may affect its ability to function correctly.
What symptoms can be reported after an injury that can aid in the diagnosis of a concussion? *
• Headache or pressure in the head • Nausea or vomiting • Confusion • Dizziness and/or balance problems • Vision changes (blurry or double) • Sensitivity to light and/or noise • Concentration and/or memory problems • Feeling tired, slowed down, groggy, and/or not feeling “right”
What are the signs others will observe when monitoring a concussed individual? *
• Pupil dilation • Looking dazed or stunned • Confusion and/or memory loss of events before and/or after the event • Balance problems • Loss of consciousness • Behavior and/or personality changes • Inability to concentrate
* A number of symptoms can result from a concussion, and it should be noted that not all symptoms need to occur for a concussion to be diagnosed. If a concussion is suspected, a medical evaluation should be obtained.
Is a loss of consciousness a requirement for a diagnosis of a concussion?
No. Not every concussion will result in a loss of consciousness. In fact, less than 10% of all concussions result in loss of consciousness. Even a mild bump or “getting your bell rung” can result in a diagnosis of a concussion.
What is the appropriate treatment for a concussion?
Immediately after the incident seek medical attention from a health care professional. This individual will be able to determine the extent of the concussion, make appropriate referrals, and advise when it is safe to return to sport activities. A concussed individual should be monitored for the first 24-48 hours following the incident and be taken to the hospital immediately if symptoms worsen. It is imperative that the injured athlete avoids alcohol, aspirin, anti-inflammatory medication, driving, and return to sport participation until medically advised.
Is it necessary to attain a Brain CT or MRI after a concussion?
Such imaging techniques will not necessarily aid in the evaluation of a concussion, but should be used if there are any signs and symptoms of additional brain injury. Your physician will determine the appropriateness of diagnostic imaging.
What is Post Concussion Syndrome and Second Impact Syndrome?
Two complications of concussions are the Post Concussion and Second Impact Syndromes. Post Concussion Syndrome is when the symptoms of a concussion last for an extended period of time after the initial injury. These symptoms can last for a period of a few weeks, months, and even years. If an individual sustains a second concussion before resolution of the initial concussion then this can be diagnosed as Second Impact Syndrome. The result of Second Impact Syndrome can cause brain damage that could be catastrophic. These complications stress the importance of reporting symptoms honestly and avoiding an early return to activity. THIS IS WHY RETURNING TO CONTACT SPORTS TOO EARLY CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS AND EVEN LIFE THREATENING.
Are there Guidelines for Returning to Activity after a Concussion?
Yes. The protocol of returning to activity after a concussion starts with a period of no activity (resting until symptom free), followed by light aerobic activity (e.g. jogging, stationary bicycle), sport specific exercise, non-contact sport specific training activity, sport specific activity with full contact, and a full return to sport participation. The amount of time spent in each stage will differ depending on the progress through each stage and the extent of the initial concussion. A knowledgeable medical professional should oversee individuals progressing through the return to activity protocols. It is not advised for an individual to return to activity the same day the injury occurs.
As a parent/guardian, what role should I play to take a proactive stance with my son/daughter regarding the issues around concussions?
Make it apparently clear to your son/daughter the importance of HONEST reporting of any head injury to you, their athletic trainer, coach and doctor immediately. Educate yourself and your child about the signs and symptoms of a concussion and the dangers of returning to sport participation prior to medical clearance.
Is there any protective equipment available to prevent a concussion?
The clinical evidence is limited surrounding the effectiveness of the use of mouth guards. Helmets and head gear do reduce impact forces to the brain but have not been shown to completely prevent concussions.
It's better to be safe than sorry! If you suspect a concussion, seek medical advice!
For more information on concussions, go to http://www.cdc.gov/TraumaticBrainInjury/, http://www.nfhs.org/, and http://www.sportslegacy.org/