The Dangerous Consequences of a Concussion
Anyone who plays sports needs to be aware of the risk of concussion. Athletes must take steps to decrease that risk. Coaches, managers, and parents must also know the symptoms of a concussion and understand the consequences of an unrecognized or untreated head injury.
Don’t Ignore Small Hits
Concussions happen when a blow to the head causes the brain to impact the inside of the skull. They are classified as Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and range from minor to severe. The force of the blow is a factor in whether or not an impact causes a concussion. But even a seemingly slight or glancing blow can be serious. Don’t ignore any hit to the head.
The injured person’s symptoms should determine whether a medical response is necessary, not the severity of the blow.
- Are they dazed?
- Are they aware of their surroundings?
- Do they remember what happened?
The answers to these questions offer clues to the extent of the injury. If the person is “out of it” after a blow, nauseated or vomiting, or having trouble walking, seek medical help immediately.
Remember that concussion symptoms can develop hours, and even days, after an injury. A persistent or worsening headache, memory loss, and mood changes all signal a problem. Visit a doctor who can perform neurocognitive tests and order a brain scan to determine the severity of the head injury.
Be Patient, Go Slow
Treatment for a concussion usually includes pain medication – acetaminophen, not ibuprofen or aspirin. But the most important response to a concussion is behavior modification.
After a concussion, the brain needs rest in order to recover. You must curtail physical activity: no playing, running, jumping, hiking, and so on.
Mental activity also needs to be sharply reduced: no reading, puzzles, problem solving, or even homework! Watching computer or TV screens, playing video games, texting . . . these activities can stimulate the brain and cause concussion symptoms to reoccur.
How long does treatment last?
That depends on the extent of the injury, but it could take weeks, months, or even longer to recover from a concussion. The key to recovery is to be patient and go slow. Reintroduce activities gradually. If any activity causes problems, stop until the brain has more time to recover. Re-injury to the head before it has had adequate time to heal creates serious problems.
Reducing the Risk
The good news is proper treatment usually leads to recovery. It also reduces the possibility of long-term problems associated with concussions, which medical experts are just now starting to understand. Using proper equipment, helmets, and padding should be standard procedure when you’re playing a sport. Playing with proper technique goes a long way toward reducing the chance of injury. It is the best way for athletes to be safe, be successful, and have fun.