Recognizing Concussions in Student Athletes
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury caused by a direct blow to the head, face, or neck. In the United States, an estimated 300,000 sports-related concussions occur annually.
In high school gender-comparable sports, girls have a higher concussion rate than boys. Female athletes have also been shown to have a greater recovery time in postconcussion symptoms as compared to males.
Signs of a Concussion
Concussion symptoms usually appear within minutes of the injury; however, some symptoms may take several hours to occur. Any athlete who has lost consciousness during a sports-related impact should be examined for a concussion or a spine injury. A headache is the most common complaint of an athlete with a concussion. If you suspect your child has suffered a concussion, they may exhibit the following symptoms, which may worsen with stress or activity:
What to do if you suspect a concussion in an athlete:
- Loss of consciousness
- Feeling in a "fog"
- Difficulty remembering
- Behavioral changes (irritability, rapid changes in mood, exaggerated emotions, aggressiveness, depression, decreased tolerance to stress, etc)
- Difficulty with balance
- Pupils that are enlarged or not equal in size
- Double or blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Excessive drowsiness
- Do not allow them to return to any sporting event.
- The athlete should be allowed to rest until there is a resolution of symptoms. This allows the brain to recover. Rest involves allowing time to sleep or take frequent naps. Minimizing distractions, such as television, Internet, reading, or phone use is important.
- It is unnecessary to wake the athlete up every hour. This disturbs sleep patterns, which can interfere with the healing process of the brain.
- The athlete should avoid pain relievers, like aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medications. These may increase the risk of bleeding in the brain.
- The athlete should not be left alone following the injury. Symptoms should be monitored closely. If they worsen, the athlete may need to be evaluated in the emergency room to determine if a more serious brain injury exists.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
Physical therapists can evaluate and treat many problems related to concussion. Because no 2 concussions are the same, the physical therapist's examination is essential to assess your individual symptoms and limitations. The physical therapist then designs a treatment program.
Help Stop Dizziness and Improve Your Balance
If you have dizziness or difficulty with your balance following a concussion, vestibular physical therapy may help. The vestibular system, which includes the inner ear and its connections with the brain, is responsible for sensing head movement, keeping your eyes focused when you move your head, and helping you keep your balance. A qualified vestibular physical therapist can provide specific exercises and training to reduce or stop dizziness and improve balance and stability.
Your physical therapist will examine you for neck problems following a concussion. Neck injuries can cause headaches and contribute to some forms of dizziness. Your therapist also can assess your back for possible injuries to your spine.
As symptoms due to concussion improve, your physical therapist will help you resume physical activity gradually, to avoid overloading the brain and nervous system that have been compromised by concussion.
It's important that you follow the recommendations of all health care professionals so that you can achieve the greatest amount of recovery in the shortest amount of time.
**article courtesy of moveforwardpt.com