Concussions in Sports: The Dangers of a Hidden Injury
Professional sports are followed by millions and young athlete’s grow up wanting to emulate their idols. However, has science learned how to deal with sports-related concussions and as coaches and certified personal trainers are we able to recognize them?
What is a Concussion? (2)
Concussions are caused by a traumatic brain injury which results in a change in the way your brain functions. Most concussions last for a short duration depending on the grade. Some of the initial effects include headaches, issues with the ability to focus, memory, coordination, and balance disturbances.
Concussions are generally caused by getting struck on the head. However, they can be caused by being violently shaken. Due to the nature of impact sports, such as football, they are common. These injuries will heal with time and rest.
Brain Injury Canada states; “Brain injury in Canada is a silent epidemic. In Canada, brain injury is the number one killer and disabler of people under the age of 44. Statistics further indicate that incidences are two times greater within the male population. Women take longer to recover from a brain injury.” (1)
What Are the Different Grades? (4)
Concussions are graded as grade 1 (mild), grade 2 (moderate), grade 3 (severe). The diagnosis would depend on your symptoms such as losing consciousness, amnesia, and/or loss of balance.
Grade 1 symptoms: last less than 15 minutes, with no loss of consciousness.
Grade 2 symptoms: no loss of consciousness, the symptoms will continue for more than 15 minutes.
Grade 3 symptoms: there is a loss of consciousness, symptoms can remain for extended periods of time.
The majority of sports-related brain injuries are mild, and people will usually make a full recovery.
How Can You Identify if Someone Has One?
Symptoms of concussions (4) include confusion or feeling dazed, slurred speech, clumsiness, nausea or vomiting, headache, problems with equilibrium, dizziness, blurry vision, sensitivity to noise or light, feeling sluggish, tinnitus (ringing in ears), behavioral changes, memory loss and lack of concentration.
Concussions may or may not cause a loss of consciousness. Most concussions do not and because of this, people can have concussions and not realize it.
What Do You Do if You Suspect Someone Has One?
Depending on the symptoms and whether there has been a loss of consciousness would dictate your course of action. However, medical attention by a health care professional should always be your first course of action.
The physician will determine the severity of the concussion (grade 1, 2 or 3) and what the appropriate action is based on their diagnosis. The may also wish to do further diagnostic testing depending on the severity such as a CAT scan or MRI.
Full recovery will be based on the appropriate immediate medical treatment.
What is the Recommended Protocol?
The recommended protocol depends on whether you a medical professional, personal trainer or coach. Medical professionals will administer the SCAT test which stands for the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool. It includes a series of questions and a medical exam. However, as a coach or trainer, you are only allowed to use the Pocket Concussion Recognition Tool. (5)
The Pocket Concussion Recognition Tool involves; visible clues of suspected concussion, signs and symptoms of suspected concussion, memory function. (6)
Once you have established whether the athlete has suspected concussion, they must be removed from the game. They cannot be allowed to return to play until they have a full medical assessment performed. Do not allow the athlete to be left alone or drive. Ensure they receive specific instructions from the physician for return to play.
When Should You Return to Exercise?
The most recent agreement on returning to sports post-concussion is once the symptoms have subsided when at rest, you should progress from light activity, such as walking or the stationary bike, slowly up to sport-specific activities with the guidance of your physician and personal trainer. (3)
Your personal trainer will do exercise testing and rehabilitation training once you have received medical clearance from your doctor. After sport-related concussion return to activity is gradual. It will include closely monitored physical conditioning, general coordination exercises, visualization, education, and motivation activities. (3)
Concussions are common with estimates being one is sustained every 21 seconds in the U.S. The most important thing as a coach or personal trainer would be to recognize the signs of a concussion so you can take action to protect the athlete from serious harm. (4)
Cathie Glennon – BCRPA-SFL