Sports Medicine

An Introduction to Concussions

August 23, 2017


An Introduction to Concussions

Inevitably the start of fall football begins the start of concussion conversations. So, what is a concussion?

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that disrupts brain function. Clear as mud right? Concussions can come from a blow to the head, or contact with the ground, or any force that basically jars the head and brain.

Signs of a Concussion

We like to refer to concussions as having a constellation of symptoms. There are 22 symptoms associated with concussions and they don’t all need to be present for the diagnosis of concussion.

In fact, they can occur in any combination and affect every person different which is why they can be such a hard condition to diagnose and treat. Not every concussion will look the same, or last the same amount of time for recovery either.

When a person sustains a concussion, they will usually present to their medical professional with several symptoms that they are experiencing.

The Most Common Signs and Symptoms Are:

  • Headache Dizziness
  • “Pressure in head”
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Neck Pain
  • Blurred Vision
  • Balance Problems
  • Sensitive to light or noise
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Feel like “In a fog”
  • “Don’t feel right”
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty Remembering
  • Fatigue or low energy Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Trouble Falling asleep
  • More emotional Irritability
  • Sadness Nervous/Anxious

How Do Athletic Trainers Assess a Concussion?

In addition, cognitive function is assessed and the patient is evaluated for any other possible concerns as well. As athletic trainers we tend to rely on two different tools to help us assess for a concussion.

These Two Assessment Tools Are:

  1. The SCAT5 is an assessment tool, version 5, that is a paper and pencil test that scores symptoms, tests cognitive function, balance, and reaction time.
  2. The ImPACT test is a computerized test that is given at the beginning of the year to assess the athlete’s “normal” and then again once they are suspected of having a concussion. This also uses a variety of tests to assess cognitive function and athletes self report their symptoms as well.

Health Risks of a Concussion

Concussions need to be taken seriously. If an athlete returns to activity while still symptomatic and receives another blow to the head they can sustain Second Impact Syndrome which has a 50% mortality rate.

Long term effects from concussion include CTE, anxiety, depression, migraines, sleep disorders and even death. It’s important that concussions are evaluated and treated by healthcare professionals if you suspect you or your child has sustained one.

How is it Treated?

Each year between 2.5 and 4 million athletes will sustain a concussion. These symptoms can last anywhere from 24 hours to months and it’s important that each case is treated appropriately and all aspects of healthcare are managed to help the brain heal as quickly as possible.

Eliminating screen time, loud noises, artificial lighting and brain stimulation in the first few days can really help the brain heal. Just like an ankle needs rest after injury, so does the brain!

In the following weeks we will be talking about returning the student to school after a concussion and modifications the school can make; as well as how we return athletes to competition so they can be treated as safely as possible!

If you have a student athlete, please learn more about our Sports Medicine services.

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