As Fall Sports Approach, It’s Time to Understand Concussions

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Whether you’re starting to train for football, soccer or field hockey, it is important to understand concussions as you prepare for the fall sports season.

The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine defines a sport-related concussion as “a traumatic brain injury induced by biomechanical forces.”

Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion

Dr. Michael Miller of St. Elizabeth Sports Medicine says, “When an athlete suffers a concussion they develop temporary signs and symptoms that can have an impact on many aspects of their life including academics and social skills.”

Dr. Miller says the good news is, the symptoms are usually temporary. “The vast majority of young athletes recover and the symptoms resolve in 10 to 28 days, but they need to be evaluated and treated by a knowledgeable physician if a concussion is suspected.”

Symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Feeling “foggy”
  • Nausea
  • Exaggerated changes in mood, such as crying or irritability
  • Defaulting concentrating and focusing

Dr. Miller says, “A coach or parent may recognize a sport-related concussion because the athlete may take longer to get up and they may walk with an unsteady gait. It is not common for an athlete to lose consciousness, but that is an obvious sign that a brain injury has occurred.”

5 Myths About Concussions

There has been a lot of media and attention on concussions over the past few years, but Dr. Miller said there are still some common myths you may hear.

  1. You don’t have a concussion unless you lose consciousness – NOT TRUE. Dr. Miller says over 90 percent of concussed athletes do not have loss of consciousness.
  2. You have to be hit in the head to get a concussion – NOT TRUE. Although it is a common way to get a concussion, a blow to the body can also transmit forces to the head and cause a concussion, especially in those athletes whose brains may be more vulnerable/sensitive from previous concussions.
  3. A concussion-proof helmet will prevent a concussion – NOT TRUE. There is no such thing as a concussion-proof helmet. New materials and better-designed helmets, however, are helping to reduce the forces to the brain. The best helmet is the one that fits properly and is used properly.
  4. Once you have three concussions you aren’t allowed to play contact sports again – NOT TRUE. There is really no specific number that automatically disqualifies an athlete. Each athlete must be assessed on an individual basis, and work closely with a concussion specialist.
  5. You need to wake up someone every two hours after a concussion – NOT TRUE. If the athlete is doing well and symptoms are improving, then it is actually beneficial for them to sleep. The brain begins to heal during sleep. If the athlete is deteriorating and symptoms are worsening, then they should be evaluated immediately in an Emergency Department.

Preventing and Treating Concussions

Dr. Miller says the best thing we can do to prevent a sports-related concussion is to avoid unnecessary contact. “It sounds basic, but that is still the best way to avoid a concussion. They key word is unnecessary.”

Many new rules and regulations are in place to help limit unnecessary contact with the head. It is important that we properly enforce these rules and that we teach our young athletes safe skills and techniques.

He says a good example is, “Our football players should learn proper tackling techniques; athletes should not be spearing and initiating contact with their heads.”

According to Dr. Miller, two basic principles have had the greatest impact on treating sport-related concussions. We are better at recognizing the signs and symptoms of a concussion, and therefore, we are more quickly removing the athletes from harm’s way. Additionally, we are giving the concussed athlete the proper time to fully recover before they return to contact activities.

Dr. Miller says “Our knowledge of concussions is rapidly evolving. There is a lot of exciting new concussion research, which we hope will someday help keep our athletes even safer.”

Visit us online to learn more about the St. Elizabeth Sport-Related Concussion Program. If you have a sports injury that needs further evaluation, call today to make an appointment at St. Elizabeth Sports Medicine at (859) 301-5600.