Concussions are a topic that many in the sporting community would like to downplay or avoid entirely (hey NFL, we’re talking to you), but it’s important to take them seriously and be able to identify them when you see one. This message is particularly relevant for the upcoming fall sports season, but really it’s applicable to everyone as any blow to the head – whether it be a fall from the monkey bars or crash on a bicycle – can result in a concussion just as easily as a jarring hit on the football field. So no matter who you are, it is a good idea to learn a little bit about concussions.
There are quite a few concussion warning signs, but symptoms are not always consistent. So how can you tell a simple head bump from a concussion? Both make your head hurt; however, a concussion can also affect your actions, emotions, and memory. It takes time for some of these symptoms to emerge as immediate changes to things like behaviour, school performance, concentration, or energy are rarely obvious right away.
The potential delay in noticeable symptoms is particularly problematic when dealing with sports injuries. Luckily, many sports teams now use a computerized test (such as Impact) to measure the brain activity of all players before the start of the season. Then, should a player get injured, medical providers have an individualized scale to help them more quickly and accurately determine a player’s readiness to return to normal activities.
Since identification is often difficult, it is best to be prepared. Know the symptoms, and if you or your child is participating in an organized sport, verify in advance that an objective concussion protocol is in place that will prevent you, your kids, or a coach from having to make a judgement call at the moment.
Until fully healed, concussions leave the injured extremely vulnerable to a severe brain injury. As such, with any head injury, the best course of action is to limit any further physical activity and immediately seek medical assistance for evaluation and treatment. Return to normal activities should be under the guidance of a medical provider to give the injured the best chance at avoiding a second and likely more severe head injury during recovery.
Of course, the best way to deal with concussions is to avoid getting them in the first place, and the best way to do that is to protect your head. This sounds like a “duh” suggestion, but it’s true. Sports-specific helmets, softer playing surfaces, and proper sporting techniques have all been shown to greatly reduce concussions. And environmental adjustments such as childproofing, air-bags, and non-slip mats can do the same by preventing those everyday mishaps. In short, concussions CAN be prevented with a little bit of prep work.
No matter how careful you are, bad things do happen, but with a little bit of knowledge, you will be prepared. Being able to properly identify, react to, and prevent concussions will help lessen the likelihood of head injuries in your life and will lead to better outcomes if they do happen. But it’s not all on you, your friends at RetraceHealth are always just a click away to help out!