Concussions 101 from Athletic Therapist : Marina
Each year more and more children and adults are becoming involved in sports and recreational activities. Like any activity, there can be associated risks that come with playing sports. Experiencing a concussion is one risk that can occur in both impact and non-impact sports and activities. With more and more attention being place on head injuries, it’s important to understand what exactly a concussion is, how to know if you or someone you know has one, and what to do if you do.
A concussion is a brain injury and is defined as a “complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by biomechanical forces”. But, what does that exactly mean?
The brain is suspended and cushioned within the skull by spinal fluid. When an outside force, such as a body check in hockey or tackle in football, is applied to either the head, face, neck or body, the forces can transfer to the brain causing it to shake inside the skull. This movement can cause bruising inside the brain. However, it is important to note that just because you have received a hit to the head or body it does not mean you have sustained a concussion. Along with receiving an outside force, a person that has been diagnosed with a concussion will have neurological signs and symptoms. These symptoms may be immediate or delayed. It was once thought that a person had to lose consciousness to have a concussion, we now know that is no longer true.
How do you know if you, or your child has suffered a concussion?
While it is always a good idea to consult a health care professional, there are free assessment tools such as a SCAT 5 &/or Child SCAT 5 (Sport Concussion Assessment Tool) that can be found online, which may assist you with evaluating a concussion. I always recommend seeking a health professional such as a certified athletic therapist, or physician for proper diagnosis. The SCAT is designed to put the person through a series of specific tests (or “assessments”) to diagnose if a concussion has occurred. These tests include the athlete evaluating various signs and symptoms that are common with a brain injury, such as dizziness, headaches, neck pain. An athlete does not have to have every symptom to have a concussion, and it is important to state that these symptoms may not occur immediately after a hit, but can be delayed up to 24 hours. The SCAT also includes simple balance and memory tests. If you are a parent, coach, athlete or trainer who is unsure if someone has a concussion, always follow the motto: “when in doubt, sit them out”.
What do I do if I have been diagnosed with a concussion?
If someone has been diagnosed with a concussion, the initial treatment is for rest. Rest for the brain, and rest for the body. Yes, that could include no texting, emails or watching tv. Also even staying home from school or work. While there are many advances in medicine being made every day, as of right now medicine does not have the ability to put a band-aide on the brain, so rest is the best way to begin the healing process. The SCAT 5 includes a step by step return to play protocol that should be monitored by a health care professional.
Along with rest, there are treatments such as craniosacral therapy, massage and muscle energy techniques, an Athletic Therapist can utilize to help alleviate symptoms of concussion. Soft tissue treatment for the neck is also recommended to relieve muscular tightness as this could be a contributing cause of a persistent headache. Athletic Therapists can help direct you to a physician, provide treatment, and educate you on the entire process; from injury to return to school, work and play.
It is extremely important that a concussion is fully resolved before completely returning to sports. If the brain has not completely healed before it suffers another trauma, albeit even a minor one, a person can experience what is called “second impact syndrome”. Second impact syndrome is a very rare, but extremely dangerous condition in which a second concussion occurs before a first concussion has properly healed, causing rapid and severe brain swelling and often catastrophic results. If you think you may have suffered a concussion and are unsure if you are ready to return to play, always seek the advice of a health professional.
A great way to keep our children and ourselves happy and healthy is through sports and recreational activities. While the incidence of sustaining and injury may be low, we should all be aware, educated and prepared for any of the associated risks that may be had, including a concussion
Certified Athletic Therapist