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:
- 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
What to do if you suspect a concussion in an athlete:
- 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.