What is a concussion?
A concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), is a brain injury that results in an alteration of mental status and neural function. Concussions can be caused by impact to the head or the body, do not require great force, and do not necessarily result in a loss of consciousness. Concussions are most often caused by contact with another player, the ground, or a piece of equipment or object in the playing area.
How many sports concussions occur each year?
1.6 – 3.8 million sport- and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year. During 2001-2005, youth ages 5-18 years accounted for 2.4 million sports-related emergency department visits annually, of which 6% (135,000) involved a concussion.
What are the signs and symptoms?
We cannot necessarily see a concussion. Signs and symptoms of concussion can show up right after the injury or can take days or weeks to appear.
Signs Observed by Parents, Guardians, or Others
- Appears dazed or stunned
- Loses Consciousness
- Cannot recall events before/after hit/fall
- Is confused about assignments
- Moves clumsily
- Is unsure of score or opponent
- Forgets plays or instructions
- Answers questions slowly
- Behavior changes
Symptoms Reported by Athlete
- Blurred or double vision
- Feeling sluggish
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Memory problems
- Concentration problems
- Sensitivity to light/noise
- Balance problems
- Feeling foggy or groggy
- Does not “feel right”
What are concerns specific to high school athletes and concussion?
Research has shown that high school athletes’ recovery times for a sports concussion are longer than college athletes, and high school athletes who sustain a concussion are three times more likely to sustain a second concussion.
Concussions become dangerous when they go unreported or are improperly treated. Due to ignorance, an athlete may decide on his or her own that “I don’t have a concussion” or “it’s not a big deal.” Additionally, an athlete may experience considerable emotional desire to continue to play regardless of concussion-like symptoms. This pressure may come from spectators, coaches, sports media, parents, teammates, as well as the athlete’s own desire to take part in the sport. Continuing to play with concussion-like symptoms is dangerous and life threatening.
A primary concern with concussions is Second Impact Syndrome, which occurs when an athlete sustains a second blow to the head or the body during the recovery from an earlier concussion. This second blow, no matter how minor, causes a brain to swell rapidly and catastrophically. Second Impact Syndrome is often fatal; an athlete that does not die, is almost always severely disabled.
What should you do if you think your son or daughter has had a concussion?
Seek medical attention right away and follow up with the appropriate health care professionals. If possible, consult your athletic trainer. He or she can make the best recommendation on whether or not immediate referral to the emergency room is required and ensure the best possible care is being provided.
Follow the return-to-play criteria established by health care professionals. This should be a gradual process, occurring over several days once the athlete is asymptomatic.
Submitted by Nate Wilmes, MEd, ATC, LAT, EMT-B, CSCS