Thursday, August 7, 2014

Exploring Sports - Related Concussions

OverviewA concussion is a complex process that impacts the brain. Typically, it is induced by trauma to the brain caused by jolts, bumps or blows to the head. Even a minor bump on the head can cause a concussion. A concussion can also occur from a blow to the body severe enough to cause the head to move violently back and forth. All concussions are considered to be serious. All concussions need prompt evaluation and treatment.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related concussion injuries annually.  The actual incidence of this type of concussion may actually be much higher, because many injuries go unreported.

Risk Factors
A concussion can occur in anyone in any sport or activity. Athletes that engage in contact sports, youth athletes and female athletes are at an increased risk for concussions.

A major determinant that increases risk for sustaining a concussion is an athlete's prior history of concussions. Research suggests that if an athlete has received one concussion, they are 1-2 times more likely to receive a second one.

Signs & Symptoms
It is important that coaches, parents and athletes learn concussion signs and symptoms as well as how to respond when a suspected concussion occurs.  Some are the most common things to look for are listed below:
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • balance problems
  • sleep disturbance
  • sensitivity to light
  • mood changes
  • difficulty with concentration and memory
I'm A Coach. What Should I Do If A Concussion Occurs?
  1. Remove the athlete from play. Look for signs and symptoms of a concussion.
  2. Ensure that the athlete is promptly evaluated by medical professional. Do not attempt to judge the severity of the concussion yourself. Do take note of the cause of the injury, any loss of consciousness, any memory loss, or any seizures immediately following the injury. Report this information to the athlete's parents and/or medical provider.
  3. Keep the athlete out of play until he or she is evaluated by a medical professional and is cleared to return to play.
Diagnosis & TreatmentRecognition, timely diagnosis and treatment for a concussion are very important and can prevent more serious complications from this type of injury. A history of developmental disorders, psychiatric disorders or a history of headaches/migraines all play a part in concussion recovery time.

Despite all best efforts, there is no way to completely prevent the occurrence of sports-related concussion.  However, there are several things you can do to reduce the likelihood of a concussion.

  • Create a concussion action plan. This will ensure that concussions are identified early and managed effectively.
  • Educate yourself, other athletes, coaches and parents about concussions. Talk about concussions and the potential long-term consequences of concussions.
  • Monitor the health of your athletes. Encourage parents to obtain a baseline ImPACT screening during their sports physical.  Dr. Larkin is an expert in scientifically-based concussion management. You can request an appointment with Dr. Larkin for an ImPACT screening and sports physical through our online patient portal.
  • Insist that safety comes first. Teach and practice safe playing techniques. Utilize appropriate equipment at all times. Encourage good sportsmanship.
  • Teach athletes it's dangerous to play with a concussion. Rest is key!
  • Work closely with league and school officials. This can help make sure appropriate individuals are available for initial assessment and referrals for further medical care.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention have developed the HEADS UP program, which includes educational materials aimed at youth coaches, high school coaches, parents, athletes, school administrators and medical professionals.

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