Every year about 3.8 million brain concussions reported in the United States are caused by sports- related injuries, and it is estimated by the center for disease control that 5-10% athletes will suffer from brain concussions regardless of the type of sports they play. Out of these many injuries are left untreated and undiagnosed; this mismanagement can lead to complications in the future, with prolonged consequences and permanent damage.
A concussion can affect the brain in many ways which includes changes and compromise in the way a person think, sleep, how they process information and even the way they feel emotions.
Hence the first signs to look for in a brain concussion patients can be:
- Instability of emotions
- Physical deflects
- Inability to process information
- Impaired eye tracking or balance.
How to identify an athlete has concussion in the field.
(Signs and symptoms of brain concussion)
There are a few signs to check for concussion in, while experiencing a concussion the athlete may;
- Seem unsure about the game, score or opponents
- Take more time in answering questions
- Appear stunned or dazed
- Don’t know what he/she is doing in the field
- Look dizzy or off-balance (clumsy)
- Forgets play
- Faint or lose consciousness (happens in a few unusual cases)
- Lose the memory of what happen before the injury.
Athlete suffering from brain concussion may show one or more of these signs.
The symptoms of brain concussion include;
- Light sensitivity
- Noise sensitivity
- Inability to concentrate
- Inability to remember play
- Confusion about what is happening
- Double or blur vision
- Inability to balance
- A sluggish feeling
- Mental fogginess
The symptoms may vary from person to person hence if the athlete complains about any of these symptoms it is the coach’s duty to observe and understand if the player has any behavioral change. It is always better to remove the player from the field until he feels normal again. As a responsible person the coach should take this call.
What to do next
If the coach suspects any brain concussion in players in the field the United States center for disease control and prevention suggests a four step heads-up action plan that suggests the steps to be taken:
- The first step should be to remove the player from the field and prevent him or her from playing for at least one day to be sure that he or she is fine.
- The injured player should be taken to a healthcare professional so he or she can get proper treatment and diagnosis.
- Any of the friends or family members of the player should be informed about the condition. They should be briefed about the possibility of the concussion so that they can take the correct steps and decisions regarding to the player’s treatment.
- The player should not be allowed to play until a healthcare professional shows the green flag.
These are the steps suggested for high school and youth sports but even for the professional adult athletes appropriate measures should be taken. The concussion should not be ignored; the athlete should contact a doctor and get a proper check-up before returning to the field to prevent the injury from worsening.
You can even contact NeuroSport as their program aims to work specifically on athletes’ brain concussion and prolong potential consequences of head trauma. Whatever you do, don’t try to be your own doctor and concern an expert for the accurate advice. The athlete should have no symptoms and pain.
Know the right time to dial 911 or an ambulance
If you want to save the patient from bad consequence you should know when it is important to call for an emergency and let the experts handle the situation. Emergency situations are rare with brain concussions but it is important to be safe than sorry hence if you see any of the following it would be best to call 911;
- If the player gets unconscious even for a while the injury might not be just a concussion, hence the 911 must be called.
- Repeated vomiting
- Reduced level of consciousness
- If the player doesn’t wake or feels drowsy
- Headaches that are severe and getting worse
The patient should be put in observation and checked properly. Sending the patient in a bus or locker room alone can be dangerous, any changes or persistency in the symptoms must be reported.
Treatment and recovery from concussion
The treatment of brain concussion is typically divided into three phases. Managing these three phases and getting out from them by taking appropriate measures is all you need to do and you will be fine and back to game in no time. It is essential that you stay in contact during this time and follow his or her advises properly.
The three phases of recovery from concussion are;
- Acute symptomatic phase
- Recovery phase
- Recovered phase.
The time in each phase include various factors, each phase is hence different and important.
Acute symptomatic phase
The time when the injury is the most symptomatic to the point where the symptoms gradually start fading is called the Acute Symptomatic Phase. This phase is mostly the initial three days of the injury.
It is important to take complete rest in the acute symptomatic phase. Other measures that you should take in this phase are;
- Keep a track of the symptoms
- Avoid tense physical activities
- Do not think or stress to much
- Do not take medicines like naproxen sodium or aspirin, they can cause bleeding.
- Taking restful sleep is important for your body.
- Be sure to keep hydrated and eat properly.
- You can take small walks, or do light chores at home
- Light thinking activities like reading, watching TV are allowed.
Do not force your body to do anything and have patience at this phase. Consult your doctor if the symptoms worsen or any new symptoms appear. It is important that you take utmost care and do not overlook the severity of the situation.
In the Recovery phase your symptoms will start to subside and you will start feeling slightly better. You will notice that you are gradually returning to your old self, and doing intense physical activities and thinking would be possible without increasing the symptoms of concussion.
In the recovery phase you should take the following measure;
- The causes for various symptoms should be treated and treatment plans should be made in this stage
- Take slow and steady steps, you are recovering but for better results you need to start your daily routine and physical activities gradually.
- The activities you perform should be guided by your doctor.
- You can start exercises which may include walking and stationary cycling
- Intense exercise such as pushups, pull-ups etc which needs for you to bear down should be avoided.
- Medications can be taken to resolve your symptoms
- Proper sleep and rest will be needed for your body
As soon as you are free from the symptoms and do not need further medications, you are ready to return to play. But the decision is difficult and should be made by your doctor. It is also important to consider which sports you play before making the return-to-play plan. The doctor may perform a return-to-play process to decide whether you are ready or not. The process will involve the following steps;
- Relative rest
- Cardiovascular activity
- Sport-specific non-contact exercise
- Non contact training practice
- Unrestricted training
- Full return to play