What is a concussion?
There’s a lot of discussion about the risk of concussions in sports, but what exactly is a concussion? Many falsely believe someone must have a loss of consciousness and exhibit immediate symptoms, but the reality is much more subtle. A concussion is any jolt or blow to the head that disrupts normal brain function, possibly causing serious side effects.
Warning Signs and Treatment
Because symptoms may appear right away or weeks after the concussion, the diagnosis can be challenging. The patient, family members and even doctors may miss the signs, ultimately allowing the player to go untreated.
Common symptoms include dizziness, double vision, nausea, headache, exhaustion, confusion, fuzzy vision, sensitivity to light or noise and difficulty remembering or concentrating.
Rest, both physical and mental, is a very important part of the healing process. Most who suffer a concussion will ultimately recover without long-term issues, but it’s essential to not rush the time it takes to allow your brain to heal. Concussion damage is cumulative, meaning repeated concussions can have serious and disabling effects.
Last year, there were 2.5 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths due to traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs. A concussion is considered TBI and should be treated as seriously. Annually, almost 250,000 children under 19 experience a TBI in some sort of recreational activity, including sports.
What seems like a mild hit to the head might be the cause of serious and long-term health problems. Each year, around 1.6 to 3.8 million concussions occur, and youth between 5 and 18 years olds have higher risks.
Safety in Youth Sports Act
Most state’s Safety in Youth Sports Act provides concussion safety courses without cost to anyone who’s interested, and all school athletic coaches are required to receive annual training.
The Act also mandates an appropriate medical professional must provide written permission for an athlete to return to play after suffering a concussion. To qualify, the medical professional must be trained in the evaluation and management of concussions before he or she can authorize a player’s return.
Concussion Quick Facts
- TBIs, including concussions, increased by 60% in the last decade among children and adolescents
- Highest rates in football, basketball and soccer
- One concussion makes an athlete 3 to 6 times more likely to receive a second
- Of those who visit the emergency room after a sports-related head injury, 70.5% were young adults, ages 10 to 19
- In more than 50 percent of cases, concussion symptoms clear up within three days and the same percentage is playing again in nine days or less. Three months after their injuries, up to 80 percent of players continue to have post-concussion symptoms.