Return to Play Following a Concussion

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Make Sure to Take Every Head Injury Seriously

 One of the hottest issues today in youth, collegiate and professional sports is concussions.  A very simple definition is that a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury.  In many cases, a concussion can clear up quickly while other times the effects of a concussion can last for several months or even longer.

The media – including many newspaper columnists and television commentators, along with numerous sports medicine physicians are now focused on the consequences from sustaining concussions.  When a young person or athlete has an injury to his/her head, an assessment has to be made on the situation.  Parents, coaches and certified athletic trainers need to determine the injury by looking for the following symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in vision
  • Fogginess
  • Confusion

The athlete needs to be pulled from their specific activities or games and seek appropriate medication attention.  Most of the professional sports teams now take these symptoms as serious problems for their athletes and have the appropriate plan in place.

An additional assessment should be made if the person experiences sensitivity to light, concentration problems, mood changes and sleep disturbance.  There are also common misconceptions that loss of consciousness is the only way you can have a concussion or that loss of consciousness is present in only a small number of injuries.  And, of course, the symptoms can manifest immediately, in hours, days or even weeks.

In the case of the diagnosis of a concussion or the symptoms of a concussion – there should be immediate removal from practice, game or any other activity.  The best advice is that when in doubt, rest and monitor symptoms.  Upon a medical diagnosis, follow the professional’s advice.  In most cases there is a minimum of one week away from all sports activities.

Be sure to check with a medical expert, where the concussion patient needs to go through various stages and elements before returning back to full activity.  Athletes need to gradually return to activity starting with non-impact activities, slowly increasing cardiovascular training, (jogging, light shuffling, ladder drills, agility drills) plyometrics and other non-contact drills.  There needs to be constant monitoring during these activities and then a re-evaluation by a physician.   At all times, there should be proper communications between the athlete, certified athletic trainer, physician, parents and coaches.

Then, the prudence choice is a 50% return to activities during the first day of practice with patients avoiding contact and collisions.  Overall conditioning needs to be at the level prior to the injury before an actual return to game situation.

There are many key points to remember; Concussions are difficult to identify and treat.  These are brain injuries that are traumatic and have to be treated conservatively.  Like a common injury, concussions require rest and rehabilitation.  Rest, monitoring and proper progression are the best tools.

In all cases, use a medical professional to help you through the injury.  These are serious situations that do not always have simple solutions.  If you have questions or need additional information, send an email to [email protected].