Concussion in Athletes
With sports seasons gearing up, we thought it would be important to remind you about Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and how to identify and recover from them! 1.6-3.8 million sports concussions occur per year; however, it is believed that 50% of sports related concussions go unreported. With 10% of contact sport athletes being affected by concussion each year, we feel it is important to equip you with tools to better handle and possibly prevent these TBI’s from occurring.
Concussions are strange injuries in the fact that more often than not, there is no visible wound. Because the injury occurs to the brain, we cannot see the damage caused unless special imaging is done. Concussions not only cause injury to the side of the brain that was impacted, but because the brain is suspended in fluid, when an impact occurs, the brain sloshes inside the head and hits on the opposite side of the skull which creates a second injury site. The primary collision is referred to as the “coup” and the secondary impact is known as the “contra-coup”.
Some signs to look out for if someone is suffering from a concussion include:
changes in behavior: easy to anger, sad, irritable
changes in taste
ringing in the ears
If symptoms persist for a prolonged period of time, worsen, or are more severe, you may need to go to the Emergency Room for further evaluation. In severe cases TBI’s can lead to a brain bleed which can be life threatening. Another concern of concussion is second impact syndrome. This can occur when an athlete returns to play before they have recovered from the initial concussion. If they receive a second impact to the head, second impact syndrome can occur. Second impact syndrome is rapid swelling in the brain that is often fatal. This is why it is so important to protect yourself, your family, and your friends from returning to play too quickly!
Recovery from a concussion can vary depending on the severity of the concussion received and if the athlete has suffered concussions previously in their career. The main key to recovery includes low amounts of stimulation to the brain. Some recovery tactics include:
rest for a minimum of 24 hours
limit screen time as much as possible (phones, video games, television, computers)
avoid caffeine (coffee, pop, chocolate, candy)
minimize inflammatory foods
if over 16 limit driving until cleared by a physician
light exercises such as walking to increase blood flow to the brain
visual/vestibular rehabilitation exercises - with a trained profession (Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Physical Therapy)
Even if you allow your body time to rest and heal after a concussion you may still experience some lasting/lingering effects including: anxiety, migraines/headaches, mood swings, and trouble sleeping. If these symptoms continue to be present, you can follow up with your physician and continue to limit inflammatory foods, caffeine and other stimulants, and modify your exercise routine.
To minimize the risk of concussion it is important to wear the proper protective sports gear. This includes helmets, shoulder pads, seatbelts, etc. Regular exercise and chiropractic adjustments help keep healthy blood flow to the brain.
We hope that this information is helpful as sports seasons approach! Remember to listen to your athletic trainers and licensed professionals, even if you don’t like the amount of rest they are recommending, it can save your life!
For more information on TBIs, check out our Ask The Experts Blog by Therapy Solutions here.