Participation in sports carries inherent risks. Sports injuries can affect any part of the musculoskeletal system, such as bones, jones, muscles, and ligaments. It can also affect the head region.
One injury to the head region is called a concussion. It is considered a brain injury. With a concussion, protocols need to be followed to ensure proper recovery. Athletes and coaches should know how to identify the symptoms of a concussion and spring into action immediately once one occurs.
Let’s talk about concussion management in sports, the signs to look out for, and the proper implementation of treatment protocols.
What Is a Concussion? Why Is It Common In Athletes?
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury resulting from an impulsive force to the head. A hit, blow, or jolt could be so powerful that it causes a sudden onset of temporary neurological dysfunction.
In sports, concussions occur due to collisions, falls, or direct blows to the head. This type of injury is more common in contact sports, such as lacrosse, football, ice hockey, and soccer, due to the nature of these sports and the intensity of the competition.
What Are the Symptoms of a Concussion?
A concussion causes symptoms that can appear within minutes or hours after the injury.
Some of the most common symptoms of a concussion include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Headaches and migraines
- Fogginess or confusion
- A feeling of pressure in the head
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or balance problems
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Mood changes
- Cognitive issues such as memory issues and difficulty concentrating
Concussion symptoms may be immediately apparent, however, some can take days or weeks to show up. Athletes should be assessed for concussion by a medical professional trained in diagnosing and managing concussions. There are tests and exams used to assess head injuries.
How You Should Respond to a Concussion
If you suspect an athlete has a concussion, ask that they stop participating in the sport immediately. Then, seek medical attention for an evaluation. The athlete should not be allowed to return to play until they have been cleared by a healthcare professional trained in concussion management. Even if you are unsure whether a concussion developed, it is better to be safe.
Share the following information with the medical professional:
- Cause and Force of Injury: Explain how the injury occurred and the intensity of the impact to the head or body.
- Loss of Consciousness: Inform the medical provider if there was any loss of consciousness and specify its duration.
- Memory Loss: Mention whether there was any memory loss immediately after the injury.
- Seizures: If there were any seizures shortly after the injury, be sure to communicate this to the medical provider.
- Previous Concussions: Disclose the athlete’s number of previous concussions.
Treatment Protocol for a Concussion
It is crucial to follow the recommendations of the healthcare provider for concussion treatment and recovery. Here’s an example of a treatment protocol for a concussion:
1. Rest and Recovery
Engage in symptom-limited physical and cognitive rest until all symptoms have resolved completely. During this time, the athlete should focus on physical and mental rest, getting some sleep, eating nutritious foods, and staying hydrated.
2. Gentle Aerobic Exercise
Begin light aerobic activities such as walking, swimming, or stationary cycling. The focus here is on increasing heart rate.
3. Sport-Specific Exercises
Introduce sport-specific exercises that involve movement without any impact, such as swimming, running drills, and skating drills.
4. Non-Contact Activities and Training Drills
Progress to higher intensity activities and more complex training drills that do not involve contact, such as running, stationary biking, and passing drills. It is also possible to start incorporating progressive resistance training to enhance exercise, coordination, and cognitive load.
5. Full-Contact Practice
Once medically cleared, participate in normal training activities that involve full-contact practice in a controlled environment. This helps restore confidence in the athlete and allow coaches to assess their functional skills.
6. Return to Play
Resume normal game play once the athlete has successfully completed all previous stages without experiencing any recurrence of symptoms. This final step indicates readiness to return to competitive play.
Sports medicine specialists play a crucial role in helping athletes who have suffered a concussion throughout their recovery.
Sports Medicine in Johnson County, KS
The highly skilled sports medicine doctors at Midwest Orthopaedics specialize in the care and treatment of injured athletes and are trusted by local sports teams for their on-site medical needs. We understand the unique challenges that concussions pose to athletes and are here to support you every step of the way.