Athletes Guide to Concussions

All athletes should be aware of the dangers of traumatic head injuries, including concussions. Many contact sports can cause significant damage to the brain, resulting in severe injuries. Everyone who engages in contact sports is at risk. Concussions may occur in those who play football and ice hockey or people who engage in playground activities or bike-riding. If there is a possibility that someone may fall and hit their head or be struck in the head by an object or person, the risk of concussion is increased. Anyone who plays sports, regardless of age, needs to be aware of the dangers involved and take steps to prevent concussions from occurring.

What is a Concussion and How Does it Occur?

A concussion occurs when someone suffers an injury to the head that produced enough force to rattle the brain. When someone suffers a concussion, they have undergone a traumatic head injury that may have lifelong consequences. Science has shown that even mild concussions can cause long-term damage. Sports-related concussions are becoming frequent, and those who play contact sports throughout childhood and adolescence are at an increased risk. A concussion may occur simultaneously with a loss of consciousness. Not all concussion victims will lose consciousness, however. As concussions may lead to serious, permanent brain injury, it is imperative that those who have suffered a concussion seek medical attention immediately.

Concussion Symptoms

Concussion symptoms are varied, but often, the first sign is that the victim appears confused, dazed, or loses consciousness. If the concussion occurs during a sporting event or game, the player may seem uncoordinated or forget what they were doing. If the player has retained consciousness, they may become disoriented and seem unaware of their surroundings. The player may also show signs of physical impairment. A player may suddenly become clumsy or have difficulty with physical coordination. The victim may also experience a headache or feel some degree of pressure in the head. Speech may be affected, and the player may not be able to answer simple questions. Generally, if a player is hit on the head or suffers a blow and then feels that something is off, a trip to a doctor is warranted.

Methods for Preventing Concussions

Those who play sports will find that the best approach is to prevent concussions from occurring. There are several methods available that players may use to help lessen the risk of injury. Athletes must wear protective gear including mouth guards and helmets. A mouth guard is used to help prevent concussions. It is believed that when a person bites down on the mouth guard, the chance of suffering a concussion is reduced. Science continues to find new methods for preventing concussions. It is imperative that parents, players, and teachers have an open dialogue and understand the latest trends in safety gear.

Diagnosis and Testing for Concussions

Parents, teachers, and coaches should not self-assess concussions. Instead, a health care professional needs to be the one who diagnoses and tests for concussion. A player may have serious brain or head injury and appear OK to others. Therefore, only health care professionals are qualified to assess head injury and rule out serious underlying conditions. Health care professionals may use technology such as an MRI or CT scan to thoroughly assess and identify concussion and loss of consciousness.

Concussion Treatment and Recovery

Those who've suffered concussion need rest in order for the brain to heal. This means the head must be protected from additional blows, hits, or injuries. Sports are out until the patient makes a full recovery. Concussion patients must avoid all activity that poses a threat to the head. Every effort must be taken to prevent subsequent concussions. Additionally, those who've suffered concussions should avoid medications and alcohol. Those who leave a concussion untreated and suffer subsequent concussions are at risk for serious complications. After a concussion, a patient should look out for any signs of complications. Severe headaches or dizziness, trouble with vision, becoming confused, or losing consciousness are signs the brain has not healed properly. Subsequent concussions may result in swelling of the brain. If you have suffered a concussion or subsequent concussion, seek care from a health care professional immediately.

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This resource page is provided by Dr. Bruce Fagel for your information. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation.