Concussions have become a mainstay in media discussions, primarily in football and hockey. Although the NHL may be in a lockout, the AHL is in full swing, and school and local leagues are getting started. With the start of this new winter season I believe now is the perfect time for an information refresher on concussions.
Concussions; whether mild, moderate, or severe are a traumatic brain injury. A concussion is caused by a blow to the head, either from an object or the head making contact with a stationary surface. Initial symptoms may include, but are not limited to; dizziness, sensitivity to light, confusion, amnesia, nausea, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, or a headache. It is important to remember that losing consciousness is not a symptom of all concussions. Symptoms may last hours, days or weeks dependent on the severity of the injury and any activity that occurs following. Concussions may seem easily diagnosable based on signs, symptoms and mechanism of injury, but because of their possible severity anyone suspected of a concussion should be seen by a health professional for an objective assessment, diagnosis and the correct treatment. Returning to play with symptoms still present will greatly increase the risk of long term damage, especially if an additional concussion should occur.
Treatment of a concussion is very similar to other injuries. When an athlete sustains an injury, they are expected to rest and slowly return to play. It may seem like an interesting concept to grasp, but the brain is no exception. It has been injured, rest will allow it to return to full function sooner. With an ankle sprain, this is pretty straightforward; stay off the injured foot. With your brain this may mean no reading and TV while symptoms are still present, or limiting time spent in the classroom right away. Exercise, as prescribed by a health care provider, will be gradually increased as symptoms permit as with any injury.
Possibly, thanks in large part to the increased amount of discussion in the media, many states have implemented laws addressing school concussion policies. New Jersey and New York are no exception. Both work to increase school personnel’s accountability and athlete’s safety by requiring training, continuing education for Athletic Trainers, informational pamphlets for parents and athletes, and regulation of when returning to play is allowed. All work to promote awareness of this injury, but more importantly to increase the safety of the student-athlete. (Both can be found in full length on the respective state’s websites.)
Concussions are an ever growing discussion topic, and moving into this new winter sports season I hope you find this information helpful. However this is just a brief summary of concussion symptoms and treatment, any sustained injury should always be evaluated by a qualified health care provider.
New York and New Jersey state legislative websites
Guskiewicz K, Bruce S, Cantu R, et al. National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Management of Sport- Related Concussion. Journal of Athletic Training. 2004;39(3):280–297