Written By: Eric C. Hall, ATC, LAT
Spectators love the hard hits in football. Sports highlights show it over and over. But the reality is that repeated blows to the head can cause a concussion. Traumatic brain injuries or concussions can occur to any level of athlete participating in any sport or activity.
Concussions are a hot topic in the sports medicine world and more news media are discussing them on TV, newspapers, magazine articles, or on the web. By definition a concussion is brain trauma either caused by blow or sudden jolt (whiplash) to the head by a projectile or from a fall. When an individual is hit in the head and it impairs the function of the brain, they have experienced a concussion. Concussions are not structural injuries, meaning there is no skull fracture or physical injury you can see. There could be bleeding in the brain that impairs the brains function as well. Functional impairments cause the brain to not work efficiently.
Functional impairments may be brief or lasting for awhile. Some common signs and symptoms may include any of the following:
Once it is believed an athlete has experienced a concussion they must be removed from competition or practice. The athlete should be evaluated by a trained medical professional and observed over time to see if symptoms improve. All athletes should be evaluated by a medical professional trainer in recognition, evaluation, and management of concussions. The athlete should rest and not try not to stimulate the brain by watching TV, reading, using computers, or listening to music. Students in the classroom may need to alter their class assignments. Rest helps the brain recover faster. Recovery time will vary depending on the athlete’s age, gender, severity of the concussion, the total number of concussions they have experienced, and the amount of rest they get.
Once symptoms are gone and the athlete is cleared by the licensed physician they can start a slow progression of exercising (usually 5-6 days) back to full competition. It is important to understand that exercise can reproduce symptoms of a concussion and the athlete should stop if they experience and of the above symptoms.
Remember to play tough but play smart.
When in doubt ... sit them out!
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