Concussion Discussion – Taking Brain Injuries Out of Play for Student Athletes
Playing sports can involve various risks for students. Sprains, strains and even broken bones can occur. Injuries such as these show immediate, visible signs allowing for proper medical attention to be administered. But what about concussions? Often, people associate lack of consciousness as a key factor in determining a concussion. However, less than ten percent of concussed athletes suffer loss of consciousness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sports-related concussions (SRCs) affect 1.6–3.8 million people each year in the US with nearly 30% involving student athletes between 5 and 19 years of age. Recognizing the signs and symptom of a concussion and responding to them appropriately is essential to the health and safety of student athletes.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury which results in a temporary disruption of normal brain function. A concussion occurs when the brain is violently rocked back and forth or twisted inside the skull, typically from a blow to the head or body.
Early Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion:
Concussion symptoms usually appear within minutes of the injury; however, some symptoms may take several hours to occur. A headache is the most common complaint of an athlete with a concussion. Other symptoms which may worsen with stress or activity are:
- Loss of consciousness
- Feeling in a “fog”
- Difficulty remembering
- Behavioral changes (irritability, rapid changes in mood, exaggerated emotions, aggressiveness, depression, decreased tolerance to stress, etc)
- Difficulty with balance
- Pupils that are enlarged or not equal in size
- Double or blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Excessive drowsiness
Any athlete who has lost consciousness during a sports-related impact should be examined for a concussion or a spine injury.
Prevention and Preparation:
Several steps can be taken to ensure the best outcome for student athletes and teams. Educating both athletes and parents and talking to them about the dangers and potential long-term consequences of concussions are crucial to ensure the safety of student athletes.
- Teach athletes safe playing techniques and encourage them to follow the rules of play.
• Encourage athletes to practice good sportsmanship at all times.
• Prepare a fact sheet to help athletes recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion.
Plan of Action:
If a student athlete has sustained a concussion, take him/her out of play and seek the advice of a healthcare professional experienced in evaluating for concussion.
Urgent Care Now has Concussion Assessment and Treatment Professionals and utilizes ImPACT Quick Test to diagnosis and care for patients with head-related injuries. ImPACT is a unique removal from activity support tool for patients ages 12 – 70 year old and is the first and only concussion specific computerized assessment aid to receive FDA clearance. The test takes about 5-7 minutes to complete on an iPad and measures Memory, Reaction, Attention Tracking, and 5 symptoms. Dr. John Kulin, CEO of Urgent Care Now has been a Certified Impact Consultant for many years, providing support to the community with student athletic health assessment and educational talks.
No athlete should return to play the same day if a concussion is suspected. Look for the signs and symptoms of a concussion if an athlete has experienced a bump or blow to the head or body. When in doubt, keep the athlete out of play. Studies have shown that the young brain does not recover quickly enough for an athlete to safely return to activity in such a short time. Students athletes who are not immediately removed from play after a sports-related concussion are 8.8 times more likely to have an extended recovery period compared to those players who are removed immediately. In addition, those who sustain one concussion have a three to six times higher risk of sustaining a repeat concussion.
The CDC created a report entitled, “HEADS UP CONCUSSION: Concussion at Play: Opportunities to Reshape the Culture Around Concussion”. Derived from research conducted by the Institute of Medicine on student athletes the report provides information on concussion knowledge, awareness, attitudes, and behaviors. Applying a strong focus on health and safety in sports can help keep young athletes safe. For more information and to read the report, please go to: https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/pdfs/resources/concussion_at_play_playbook-a.pdf.