Mild Concussions… There is No Such Thing as “MILD”

Concussions are becoming more commonplace in contact and collision sports nowadays as athletes are getting bigger, faster, and stronger.  Athletes who compete in sports such as football, boxing, and hockey are more susceptible to head injuries because of the speed and force with which contact is made to their head and neck.  When an athlete suffers even a “mild” concussion (aka “got their bell rung”), it is NOT a mild injury as brain trauma has occurred.  Athletes who suffer a concussion are more susceptible to suffering additional head and neck trauma in the future depending on the sport he/she participates in.  Evaluation and management of a concussion is critical when determining when an athlete can return to play (RTP).

Concussions have varying degrees of symptoms from headaches, and dizziness, to loss of consciousness, nose bleeds, and memory loss (and thats just the tip of the iceberg).  When an athlete suffers a concussion, it is determined that he/she should be taken out of competition and not allowed to return until all symptoms have resolved.  Most concussions resolve within 7-10 days depending on the symptoms, but some can take longer depending on the history of the athlete (i.e. have they sustained a head injury before).  It is important that proper evaluation occur as quickly as possible when a healthcare professional suspects a possible concussion to determine RTP criteria for the athlete.  As the symptoms begin to resolve during the initial time frame, it is the healthcare professional’s responsibility to continually evaluate and re-examine the athlete to see how he/she is progressing to determine when the athlete is allowed to return to play.  Finding a healthcare professional who knows how to evaluate concussions is necessary once it occurs (DO NOT ALLOW your coach or parent, especially at the amateur level, to determine if the athlete can return to play if head trauma is involved).  If there are no healthcare professionals at the sporting event and EMS (emergency medical services) are present, then EMS should evaluate them initially and then follow-up should be done as quickly as possible by a healthcare professional.

Concussion evaluation is important at every level of competition (amateur, collegiate, and professional) to prevent an athlete from sustaining further injury/damage. Mismanagement of this athlete can lead to medicolegal ramifications and moreover, cause possible long-term complications for the athlete to either play their sport or perform their job duties.  Identifying and quickly taking these measures will ensure that the athlete ensures a proper recovery and gets back to doing what he/she enjoys most!

Stay tuned to next month’s blog as spring is in full swing!

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