Why you should take sports concussions seriously

Why you should take sports concussions seriously

By Sean Colio, MD
Board Certified, Sports Medicine

Concussions are serious injuries that should be treated by healthcare providers who are experienced with their management. Sports Medicine physicians diagnose and treat concussions with the goal of promoting a healthy recovery and returning athletes to sports and kids to school. Additionally, we work with parents, athletes, coaches, and other providers to identify the signs and symptoms of a concussion and help to proactively manage the effects.

What is a concussion?

A concussion, also referred to as a mild traumatic brain injury, is an injury to the brain caused by a blow to the head or from a whiplash effect due to a hit to the body. Concussions change the way the brain works and how a person thinks, acts, and feels. Most people do not lose consciousness. Even a "ding" or "bell ringer" can be serious.

What are the symptoms of a concussion?

Symptoms fall into four categories: physical, cognitive or thinking abilities, mood and behavior, and sleep. A person may have many symptoms or only a couple of symptoms. If a person reports one or more symptoms of concussion or if another person notices the symptoms, keep the person out of play and seek medical attention.

The symptoms of a concussion that fall into each category include:

PHYSICAL:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light and/or noise
  • Balance Problems


COGNITIVE:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Difficulty remembering new information


MOOD and BEHAVIOR:

  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • More emotional
  • Anxiety

SLEEP:

  • Sleeping more/less than usual
  • Trouble falling asleep


If you have worsening or severe headache, lose consciousness, have increased vomiting, increasing confusion, seizures, numbness, or any symptom that concerns you, your family, or friends, go immediately to the emergency department.

What to expect after a concussion:

Most concussions resolve fully within a few weeks but sometimes it can take months or longer. Getting plenty of rest, both mental and physical are important after a concussion. Immediately after a concussion, you should avoid activities that are physically demanding (e.g., sports, physical education (PE), riding a bike, exercising) or require a lot of thinking or concentration (e.g., video games, computer use etc.). Your doctor will advise you as to when you can resume these activities.

Why you should gradually reintroduce activity after a concussion:

For both mental and physical activities, gradually reintroducing them back into your life will help you avoid making symptoms worse or prolonging your recovery. Your doctor will work with you to proactively manage school accommodations such as a shorter school day or frequent breaks throughout the day. There should also be a gradual increase in time spent on activities like texting, playing video games, using the computer, and completing homework. (Ask your doctor about a gradual return to mental activity program.)

Your doctor will probably recommend a gradual return to play/physical activity. You should not participate in any physical activity until you have been cleared by your doctor.

Comments
Jeffrey Moo, M.D.
Thanks for a great article. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of Dr. Colio's recommendations regarding gradual, controlled resumption of both mental and physical activity after a concussion. H-MR spectroscopy studies have shown that even after apparent resolution of symptoms, metabolic derangements in the brain can persist for as long as 30 days. Additional injury during the recovery period can have serious consequences. Even mild brain injury is not so much an event as it is the initiation of a process, and until this process fully resolves, the brain remains vulnerable.
2/8/2013 5:21:50 PM
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About the Author

Sean Colio, MD

Sean Colio, MD
Board Certified, Sports Medicine

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