A concussion is an alteration in mental status that may or may not involve loss of consciousness and is caused by a traumatic blow to the head. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that as many as 3.8 million sports and recreation related concussions occur in the United States each year. 60% of high school concussions are related to football. For girls the leading cause of high school sports concussion is soccer.
CDC guidelines suggest student athletes who experience any of the signs and symptoms listed below after a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body should be kept out of play the day of the injury and until they are cleared by a health care professional.
Symptoms Reported by Athlete:
- Headache or pressure in head
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance problems or dizziness
- Double or blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to noise
- Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
- Concentration or memory problems
Observable signs by others:
- Appears dazed, stunned or disoriented
- Forgets an instruction
- Is confused or unsure of the game, score or opponent
- Moves clumsily
- Answers questions slowly
- Loses consciousness (even briefly)
- Shows mood, behavior or personality changes
- Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall
- Can’t recall events after hit or fall
Post concussive syndrome is a condition in which the effects of a concussion do not abate. This is a complex disorder in which concussion symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, memory problems, cognitive difficulties, vertigo and personality changes, last for weeks and sometimes months after the impact that caused the concussion. The likelihood for further or permanent brain damage from a secondary injury is significantly higher if a player is returned to competition before full recovery. This is called secondary impact syndrome (SIS). SIS describes a situation in which a player sustains a second injury to the head before the symptoms from the first head injury have resolved. SIS is very serious with athletes suffering long term or permanent damage as a result.
If you suspect a concussion seek medical attention right away. A health care professional will be able to determine when it is safe to return to sports. Do not self assess your condition; a second concussion to an already traumatized brain can be very serious. Be sure to inform coaching staff of any other head trauma not sustained on the playing field (i.e. auto or bike accident). Previous head trauma is important to consider in the evaluation of an athlete with a suspected concussion.
Ways to prevent concussions include wearing the right protective equipment in the proscribed manner and ensure it is properly fitted and maintained. In addition many injuries can be prevented by practicing good sportsmanship and following all safety rules for the sport.