Say the word “concussion” and most of us think of a male football player. Football may be the most common cause of concussions, but many athletes in sports — such as soccer, basketball, wrestling, baseball and volleyball – or even a guy working in a garage can experience a concussion. So, it’s wise for all parents, grandparents, coaches and athletes (as well as backyard mechanics) to understand the signs of a concussion.
WHAT IS A CONCUSSION?
“A concussion is a mild, yet traumatic brain injury,” describes Orthopedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist Patrick Denton, MD. “It’s like having a bruised brain and it disrupts the normal electrical flow in the brain. It’s not something you can see on an X-ray, CT scan or MRI most of the time. It’s a problem of faulty function, not structural like a broken arm. We know that if the concussion goes unrecognized, there could be long-term detriment to the athlete. So we want to identify concussions early and treat them appropriately.”
SIGNS OF A CONCUSSION
“The No. 1 complaint is a headache,” says Dr. Denton. “The injured person may have some irritability, lack of concentration, nausea, and aversion to bright lights. The lights on the field will bother them. They won’t want to look into lights.”
TREATING A CONCUSSION
We often tell athletes they can’t participate in sports for a while,” Says Dr. Denton. “The other thing that we discourage is playing video games or anything that is high intensity visual stimulation. Those types of things aggravate the problems. They need to stay off the computer, rest, and – if they experience prolonged headaches — have it investigated.”
The long-term effect of concussions is still unresolved,” says Dr. Denton. “So, we try to err to the side of safety. We support a new South Carolina State Law that requires anyone suspected of a concussion be evaluated by a medical specialist who is trained in concussion diagnosis and treatment before returning to play.”
“Returning to play too soon is the absolute wrong answer,” says Dr. Denton, who notes another important question: When does an athlete with possible concussion require a trip to the Emergency Room? He offers these criteria:
What about taking the athlete to one of those Saturday Morning Sports Injury Clinics?
“Someone with a suspected concussion should not come to an Injury Clinic, because more complex diagnostic testing is required to confirm a concussion diagnosis,” says Dr. Denton. “If your school has an Athletic Trainer, contact them or see a Sports Medicine Specialist.”
For more information on the McLeod Sports Medicine program, click here.