As long as contact sports exist, the risk of suffering a concussive brain injury remains. Yet, with the use of new equipment, knowledge and a team approach we can manage these injuries to keep the athlete safe.
“Concussion awareness and player safety have improved tremendously in the past four to five years,” said McLeod Orthopaedic Specialist Dr. Christopher Stanley. “Many sports adopted new rules in an attempt to reduce the amount of head injuries, accompanied by enhancements in concussion diagnosis and treatment.”
Although many people think that the most common symptom of a concussion is losing consciousness, this sign occurs in only about 10% of the victims.
Headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting top the list of concussion symptoms, often accompanied by cardiac complications.
Mood disorders, especially irritability, can be exacerbated following a brain injury, highlighting the importance of the family monitoring the athlete for abnormal behavior.
Athletes at greatest risk of concussive response to an accident are those with a prior concussion, which increases the likelihood of concussion 3-5 times.
Research has indicated no gender difference in concussion rates.
NEW TREATMENT TECHNIQUES
One of the most important actions an athletic trainer takes to prevent further injury is removing the athlete from play, as soon as a concussion is suspected. Rest is a priority. After monitoring the athlete for a few days, treatment begins.
Different techniques track improvements in balance, memory, cognition and eye tracking. The patient is asked to recall a phrase to see if their memory in returning. Athletes focus on different signals and movement when performing an exercise, such as eye tracking.
If the athlete has undergone concussion pre-season testing, their post-injury balance and cognition can be compared to earlier scores.
Athletes at McLeod-covered high schools and Francis Marion University, undergo pre-season baseline concussion testing. This is one measure used in the overall evaluation of the care of athletes.
To test stress on the brain, the therapist puts the athlete through simulated game and practice conditions.
The athlete performs increasingly more intense exercises, typically over the course of 5days, until they are symptom-free.
A return-to-play decision results from ongoing communication among the physician, physical therapist and athletic trainer.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
Two of the most important factors to preventing or recovering from a concussions are:
Contact an Orthopedic Specialist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, International Conference on Concussion in Sport, American Journal of Sports Medicine