Concussions often come to mind during fall with football getting into the swing of things.
Concussions often are misunderstood because they are not always a visible injury if you do not know what to look for. Often people only notice an athlete who has sustained a concussion if they are stumbling or unconscious on the field, or in other words when the concussions are on the severe end of the spectrum.
While football is the most common sport that brings concussions to mind, it is most definitely not the only cause of concussions. Concussions can be caused by a variety of things, including any other sport, a car accident or any other trauma causing a sudden jolt to the head or body.
Concussions are a type of TBI (traumatic brain injury) that are caused by an impact to the head or body, causing the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. Often concussions cause a spectrum of symptoms, dependent on the severity and the individuals past medical history with concussions.
Symptoms of a concussion include:
Headache or “pressure” in the head.
Nauseas or vomiting.
Light and noise sensitivity.
Just not “feeling right” or “feeling down.”
Some people do not always associate the common symptoms with a concussion, but there are signs that can be observed that will often assist in the diagnosis of a concussion when the symptoms are not prevailing. Those signs include memory loss, appearing dazed or stunned, being confused or unsure of geographical location, moving clumsily, responding slowly to questions, losing of consciousness and changes to mood, behavior or personality changes.
Signs and symptoms generally show up soon after the injury. However, you may not know how serious the injury is at first, and some symptoms may not show up for hours or days.
Diagnosis, treatment and return to activity should be conducted by a health care professional. With athletics you will often see this done by an athletic trainer working under the supervision of a physician who specializes in concussion care. While most concussions do not require going to the hospital, there are some circumstances that lead to an immediate activation of EMS (Emergency Medical Service), including loss of consciousness.
Recovery from a concussion is based on a person-by-person basis. There is no particular time frame for signs and symptoms of a concussion to resolve. Recovery time is dependent on factors such as severity of the concussion and history of concussions.
The common stages of returning to activity from a concussion for the nonathletic population include rest, light activity, moderate activity and then back to regular activity. For all stages the individual progression will be based on their symptoms.
Returning to sports and physical activity for an athlete requires a few extra steps. The steps include rest, return to school, light activity, moderate activity, heavy/noncontact activity, practice with full contact and return to competition. For athletics, athletic trainers use baseline testing to assist in returning the athlete to play through statical knowledge of their cognitive and balance status prior to a possible concussion. These tests often include ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) and BESS (Balance Error Scoring System). An ImPACT test measures visual and verbal memory, reaction time and processing speed to help determine if a patient can safely return to physical activity. BESS testing was developed as an outcome measure of postural stability. Both ImPACT and BESS tests are sources that are used in athletics to assist in returning athletes back to play after sustaining a concussion, but for it to be an affective test, a baseline must be obtained prior to a concussion.
Concussions are serious injuries that can be sustained by both athletic and nonathletic populations in many different traumatic scenarios. The most important factor that plays into the diagnoses, treatment and recovery of a concussion is reporting the injury immediately.
Sustaining a second concussion before the first one is completely healed is life threatening and preventable if the proper precautions and procedures are taken. Seeking care from a health care provider is always essential in the care of a concussion no matter if it is the athletic or nonathletic population.