Fall sports are under way, and as youth are lacing up their cleats it is good time to discuss concussion awareness and prevention. While awareness of concussion has improved in recent years, the CDC estimates that 50% of sports-related concussions go undiagnosed. Did you know that over 35 million children between the ages of 5-18 participate in organized sports each year? Being able to recognize and respond to concussion will help keep our young athletes safe and in the game.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging neurons (CDC, 2017).
On the field:
If concussion is suspected, the athlete should be evaluated by an athletic trainer, coach, or trained medical professional. The most common symptoms at the time of injury are headache, confusion, and memory difficulty/amnesia. Additional symptoms can develop hours, days, or weeks after the impact. After concussion, the brain is very sensitive to stimulation. Often someone with concussion will have increased symptoms with bright light, loud noise, and busy environments.
Off the field:
Any child or teen with suspected concussion should be taken out of the game. Remember- when in doubt, sit them out! It is important to have the athlete evaluated by a medical provider. Treatment of concussion is based on the severity of symptoms, and return to play is safe only when he or she is symptom-free. The CDC action plan for return to play recommends:
- The youth should be back to doing his or her regular school activities before return to sport.
- Not have any symptoms from the injury when doing normal activities.
- Have the green-light from his or her health care provider to begin the return to play process.
After concussion, the child or teen should follow brain rest and return to learn/play through guidance of a medical provider. While it can take 1 month for youth to fully recover from concussion, most sport-related concussion symptoms clear up in 2 weeks. If the athlete is not experiencing improvement within 1-2 weeks, evaluation with a rehabilitation or concussion specialist is recommended. Additional information on post-concussion syndrome (PCS) can be found at concussionfoundation.org.
See Laurel Short, MSN, FNP-C speak in 2018 at a Skin, Bones, Hearts & Private Parts CME/CE Conference for NPs, PAs, MDs, and DOs.