It can happen in an instant…. An elbow to the head, a blow from the ball, a collision with another athlete, a fall, a tackle…you name it, and believe it or not, it can result in a concussion. How? The mechanical trauma that results in a concussion can be from a direct blow to the head, face or neck, or an indirect blow somewhere else on the body.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), induced by mechanical forces that immediately disrupt the normal functioning of the brain.
- Concussion is the most common type of brain injury sustained in sports.
- An athlete does not have to lose consciousness to have sustained a concussion.
- Once an athlete has sustained a concussion, that athlete is at greater risk of sustaining additional concussions.
- Multiple concussions can have cumulative and long lasting consequences.
How do you know if you have a concussion?
There are many signs and symptoms associated with concussions although they may be slight and in fact, may be hardly noticeable at first. However, once they appear, they can last for days, weeks or even longer. If you suspect that your child may be suffering with a concussion, watch for the following early signs:
Signs & Symptoms of a Concussion:
Early Signs:(typically noticeable within minutes to hours):
- Lack of Awareness of surroundings
- Nausea and Vomitting
Late Signs or Symptoms:(may take up to a couple of days or weeks to appear)
- Feeling Light-Headed
- Inability to Concentrate
- Difficulty with Memory
- Increased sensitivity to bright lights
- Increased sensitivity to loud noises
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Sleep disturbances
Concussions are serious business and anyone feeling as though they might be suffering from one should immediately seek medical attention – it can be that critical especially if you’ve recently suffered a concussion and have been subjected to another blow. This incidence is referred to as Second Impact Syndrome (SIS).
Second Impact Syndrome (SIS) is a rare condition in which the brain swells rapidly and catastrophically after a person suffers a second concussion before symptoms from an earlier one have subsided. As a mother, I always recommend medical evaluations of your child so that you’ve allowed the necessary healing to take place BEFORE something drastic occurs.
“It’s Better to Miss One Game Than the Whole Season”
To help ensure the health and safety of young athletes, the CDC developed the “Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports initiative to provide information about concussions to coaches, parents and athletes that includes prevention of, recognizing symptoms and responding to a concussion in an effort to increase awareness.
The first step is to obtain a pre-season baseline assessment. This is cutting edge technology that helps to ensure a safe and timely recovery of young athletes should they sustain a concussion. It is advisable for athletes involved in sports such as football, soccer, basketball, Rugby, baseball or other “contact” sports. It is a short computerized test administered prior to the beginning of the sport(s) season that measures pre-selected brain processes and scores the test for each individual athlete. The results from these tests can then be compared to tests taken in the event the child has suffered a concussion and will help to assess the severity and extent of the injury. What is the advantage of this test? Being able to determine when the athlete’s brain functions have returned to the original baseline scores indicating it is safe for the athlete to return to sports or activity.
However, should your child suffer a concussion and perhaps you’ve not received the Baseline Test(s) referenced above, you’ll still want to treat the symptoms accordingly.
First and foremost, if you are treating the symptoms At-Home you’ll want to know a few specifics:
- Bleeding under the scalp, but outside the skull will result in a “goose egg” or a large bruise at the site of the head injury. This type of injury is common and will go away in its own time, however, using ice to reduce the swelling immediately after the trauma occurs will help to decrease its size and provideimmediate pain relief. When applying ice, it should NEVER be applied directly to the skin – using a cloth will provide a barrier so as not to harm the skin. QUICK TIP: A BAG OF FROZEN VEGETABLES OR A BAG OF RICE MAKES A FANTASTIC ICE PACK AS IT CONFORMS TO THE SHAPE OF THE AREA NEEDING ICE. Ice should be applied 20 – 30 minutes at a time and should be repeated every two to four hours as needed. After 24 hours, there is little benefit of icing.
- If your child falls onto a carpeted floor, it is unlikely that the injuries are life threatening although you’ll still want to monitor your child and any symptoms that result. If there is unconsciousness, the injury should be handled differently including seeking medical attention.
- Should you be the victim, do NOT attempt to drive yourself to the hospital.
- With concussions comes the risk of seizures. You’ll want to insure that the individual who has suffered the concussion is not left alone for a period of 24 hours following the incident.
- If you experience “pain in the neck” following a fall, whether a concussion resulted or not, you’ll want to seek medical attention.
- Additionally, if you experienced dizziness or heart palpitations accompanying the fall, again seek medical attention.
- If the individual suffering the concussion takes blood thinners, even a mild concussion can be a serious injury and should be treated medically.
- Aspirin or ibuprofen may make bruising worse – use at your discretion. However, please note that Acetaminophen is preferred.
Treating a concussion may require professional medical attention. Here are a few basic treatments that you can expect:
- Bed rest, drinking plenty of fluids and a mild pain reliever like Tylenol (acetaminophen) will more than likely be recommended.
- Ice will be applied to the injured area to provide pain relief and reduce the swelling that is sure to follow.
- Cuts will be numbed, usually via Lidocaine, either applied topically or injected at the injured site. Cuts will be cleansed and then closed either with stitches (sutures), skin staples or skin glue.
- If symptoms suggest a more serious injury, a CT scan of the head may be recommended.
One of the most important elements that parents, coaches, and athletes should be aware of is the medical recommendation that should an athlete lose consciousness, he/she should NOT participate in sports for a minimum of (3) months. Why? Studies have linked the possibility of serious brain injuries and death occurring when a subsequent concussion occurs during the healing process.
Concussions are serious business. So, if you or someone you know has suffered a head/neck/bodily injury and exhibits any of the symptoms frequently known to be common in concussions, please treat the injury seriously instead of simply shrugging it off. Pupil dilation is a common method of determining if an individual has sustained a concussion and can certainly assist one in ascertaining the severity of the injury.
To all of you moms (and dads) out there – I feel your anxiety and pain. I have two sons, one plays football and the other soccer and wanting to protect them is normal. We’ve got to let them spread their wings and fly, a lesson I’ve found very difficult to learn. However, having said that, we should also make certain that they are protected via equipment that fits them properly and that will offer them an extra layer of protection from harm. Check the “fit” on any equipment that your child wears as well as the rating(s) of the equipment your child is using. Knowledge is power! Use the power that you’ve been provided to insure that you’ve done everything possible to keep your child safe in the activities he/she has chosen to engage.
For additional information, I’ve attached a link which includes a video feed about the brain and what occurs or can occur when concussions and unconsciousness result from a fall, blow to the head, etc…. Please take the time to review as it might provide you information that is vital to your child’s health & well-being.
Video: Learn about Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussions.