September is Concussion Awareness Month and a perfect time to get informed. Fall sports season is back as well, with football and soccer being two activities concussion experts commonly see head injuries from.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head. The result of this impact causes the brain to rapidly move back and forth.
No matter the sport, it’s imperative coaches, spectators and parents are informed about concussions to keep young athletes healthy and safe. Nicholas Smith, DO, CAQSM, primary care sports medicine physician at Bon Secours, talks through concussions and the best course of action to take.
First and foremost, it is important to know how to identify a concussion. Symptoms of a concussion include:
- Double or blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light and/or noise
- Confusion, concentration or memory issues
- Feeling sluggish or groggy
- Sleep disturbance – sleeping more or less than usual
“The most important step in concussion management is to recognize signs and symptoms early, and assess for red flags,” says Dr. Smith.
If it appears an athlete has a concussion, they should be immediately pulled from the game and examined carefully. A potential concussion should also be evaluated by a health care provider. Their evaluation will include discussion of symptoms and further testing.
It typically takes two to four weeks for young athletes to recover from a concussion. However, each concussion is unique in terms of treatment and healing.
“As every individual is different, every concussion is different and requires an individualized approach to treatment,” says Dr. Smith.
The steps to recovering from a concussion typically include:
- Light activity
- Moderate activity
- Back to regular activity
Getting back in the game
During treatment, it is imperative athletes completely discontinue playing sports until their concussion has fully healed and their medical provider gives their approval. Athletes who have had concussions in the past are especially of concern. The dangers of repetitive head injuries include possible brain damage and even death.
“Until recently, lack of consensus guidelines on diagnosis and management of concussions lead to inconsistency in treatment among health care providers,” says Dr. Smith.
If a player is not improving properly and recovery is prolonged, neuropsychology testing is usually the next step. This gives the medical provider an opportunity to look for a possible secondary cause behind the concussion.
Coaches, spectators, and parents have a responsibility to be aware of concussions and their symptoms. This knowledge and understanding could potentially save an athlete’s life.