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Sports Concussion

A concussion is a brain injury. Concussions are caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. A concussion can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth. They can range from mild to severe and can disrupt the way the brain normally works. Even a “ding” or a bump on the head can be serious and result in a long-term or lifelong disability.

Quick Facts:

  • A concussion is a brain injury.
  • Most concussions occur without a loss of consciousness.
  • Recognition and proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or even death.
  • Athletes who have ever had a concussion are at increased risk for another concussion.
  • Children and teens are more likely to get a concussion and take longer to recover than adults.
Sometimes people do not recognize that a bump, blow, or jolt to the head can cause a concussion. As a result, athletes may receive no medical care at the time of the injury, but they may later report symptoms such as headache and dizziness. These symptoms can be a sign of a concussion.

Remember, a concussion is a brain injury. Student athletes, parents, and coaches of every school athletic team and every extracurricular athletic activity should be trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of brain injury, including concussions and second impact syndrome.

Signs and Symptoms:

You cannot see a concussion. Signs and symptoms of concussion can show up right after the injury or can take days or weeks to appear and may include:
        •   Headache
        •   Nausea or vomiting
        •   Balance problems or dizziness
        •   Double or fuzzy vision
        •   Sensitivity to light or noise
        •   Feeling groggy, foggy or sluggish
        •   Concentration or memory problems
        •   Confusion
        •   Irritability
        •   Sadness
        •   Nervousness or anxiety
        •   Sleeping more or less than usual
        •   Trouble falling asleep

Medical attention should be sought immediately if an athlete:

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Is confused about assignments
  • Forgets plays
  • Is unsure of game, score, opponent
  • Move clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Can’t recall events prior to or after a hit

How is a concussion treated?

Concussion symptoms are made worse by exertion, both physical and cognitive (mental). The most important treatment for a concussion is rest. The athlete should not exercise or do any activities that may make the symptoms worse, like driving a car, reading, working/playing on the computer, playing video games, cutting the lawn, or other cognitively or physically taxing activities. If cognitive activities (e.g., reading, concentrating, using the computer) cause symptoms to worsen, the athlete may have to stay home from school. If athletes return to activities before they are completely better, they are more likely to get worse and their symptoms are more likely to last longer.

When can an athlete return to school or work?

Return to school or work should occur gradually and not until the athlete feels better and school/work activities do not aggravate symptoms.

What to do if an athlete is suspected of sustaining a concussion:

If an athlete is suspected of having sustained a concussion, implement the CDC’s recommended 4-step action plan:

  1. Remove the athlete from play. When in doubt, keep the athlete out of play.
  2. Ensure the athlete is evaluated by a health care professional experienced in evaluating for a concussion.
  3. Inform the athlete’s parents or guardians about the possible concussion and give them a fact sheet on concussion.
  4. Keep the athlete out of play the day of the injury and until a health care professional, experienced in evaluating for a concussion, says they are symptom-free and it’s okay to return to play.

Facts and Statistics:

According to the CDC, in 2009, an estimated 248,418 children (age 19 or younger) that were treated in emergency departments for sports and recreation-related injuries were diagnosed with a concussion or TBI. The rate of emergency department visits for sports and recreation-related injuries with a diagnosis of concussion or TBI rose 57% among children from 2001 to 2009.

  • Among children and youth ages 5-18 years, the five leading sports or recreational activities which account for concussions include bicycling, football, basketball, playground activities, and soccer.
  • Collegiate and high school football players who have had at least one concussion are at an increased risk for another concussion.
  • A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first—usually within a short period of time (hours, days, or weeks)—reportedly can result in brain swelling, permanent brain damage, and even death. This condition is called second impact syndrome.
  • For males, the leading cause of high school sports concussion is football; for females, the leading cause of high school sports concussion is soccer.

What is known about sports, concussion risk, and recovery?

  • High school athletes’ recovery times for a sports concussion are longer than college athletes’ recovery times.
  • High school athletes who sustain a concussion are three times more likely to sustain a second concussion.
  • Lack of proper diagnosis and management of concussion may result in serious long-term consequences, or risk of coma or death.

For more information on sports concussion, prevention, or what to do if you suspect someone has sustained a concussion, complete our Resource Request Form or call our office at 1-800-444-6443 or 804-355-5748. The following links also provide additional information.

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