Heads Up: A Guide to Sports-Related Concussions


It’s that time of year again—school is starting and so are fall sports. Although every sport carries some risk of sports-related concussions, the fall sport lineup of football, soccer and field hockey carry a high risk. Dr. Michael Miller of St. Elizabeth Sports Medicine explained the ABCs of concussions.

What is a Sports-Related Concussion

“When an athlete suffers a concussion, they develop temporary signs and symptoms that can have an impact on many aspects of their life,” says Dr. Miller.

The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine defines a sport-related concussion as “a traumatic brain injury induced by biomechanical forces.”
Dr. Miller says, “It isn’t always a hard hit that causes a concussion. 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.”

How to Recognize a Concussion

Although symptoms are usually temporary, lasting 10-28 days, athletes should be evaluated if they have any of these symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Feeling “foggy”
  • Nausea
  • Exaggerated changes in mood, such as crying or irritability
  • Decreased concentration and focus

How to Prevent a Concussion

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

  • Make sure you school or sports club has a concussion plan to recognize concussions.
  • Review the school or sports club concussion policies and procedures before the start of the season to make sure your child is playing on a safe sports team.
  • Encourage teachers, coaches and other student athletes to report when a student is not acting normal. Everyone should know the symptoms and understand the long-term effects of returning to activities too soon.

How to Treat a Concussion

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.

If you suspect your child or student-athlete has a concussion, you should:

  • Seek medical attention right away. Your primary care doctor or athletic trainer can evaluate how serious the concussion is and when they should return to sports and school.
  • Do not return to play until the concussion symptoms are gone. You will need a written release from your doctor.
  • Give the student athlete time to get better. It takes time to heal, and everyone experiences a concussion differently. Things that involve concentration such as studying, video games may cause the symptoms to get worse.
  • Make sure the student athlete gets rest and sleep while the brain recovers.

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) 212-5600.