When your Head Hurts - CONCUSSIONS Written by: Eric C. Hall, ATC, LAT
Spectators love the hard hits in football. Sports highlights show it over and over. But the reality is that repeated blows to the head can cause a concussion. Traumatic brain injuries or concussions can occur to any level of athlete participating in any sport.
Concussions are a hot topic in the sports medicine world and more news media are discussing them on TV, newspapers, magazine articles, or on the web. By definition a concussion is brain trauma either caused by blow or sudden jolt (whiplash) to the head by a projectile or from a fall. When an individual is hit in the head and it impairs the function of the brain, they have experienced a concussion. Concussions are not structural injuries, meaning there is no skull fracture or physical injury you can see. There could be bleeding in the brain that impairs the brains function as well. Functional impairments cause the brain to not work efficiently.
Functional impairments may be brief or lasting for awhile. Some common signs and symptoms may include any of the following:
- Any loss of consciousness
- Balance problems
- Disorientation / Confusing
- Concentration or memory problems
- Fatigue / Lethargy / Sluggish
- Double or blurred vision.
- Sensitivity to light.
- Sensitivity to noise.
- Ringing sensation in the ears
- Difficulty speaking or slurred speech.
- Unusual eye movements or unequal pupils.
- Nausea or vomiting (or feeling that you might)
- Colorless fluid or blood coming from the ears or nose
- Changes in behavior (irritability)
- Convulsions or seizures.
- Unusually stiff neck or inability to move head/neck.
- Decreased sensations or numbness / tingling in the head, neck, or arms.
Once it is believed an athlete has experienced a concussion they must be removed from competition or practice. The athlete should be evaluated by a trained medical professional and observed over time to see if symptoms improve. All athletes should be evaluated by a licensed physician who understands concussions. The athlete should rest and not try not to stimulate the brain by watching TV, reading, using computers, or listening to music. Students in the classroom may need to alter their class assignments. Rest helps the brain recover faster. Recovery time will vary depending on the athlete’s age, gender, severity of the concussion, the total number of concussions they have experienced, and the amount of rest they get.
Once symptoms are gone and the athlete is cleared by the licensed physician they can start a slow progression of exercising (usually 5-6 days) back to full competition. It is important to understand that exercise can reproduce symptoms of a concussion and the athlete should stop if they experience and of the above symptoms.
Remember to play tough but play smart.
When in doubt ... sit them out!
P.R.I.C.E.S Written by Eric C. Hall, MAEd, LAT, ATC
When a non-life threatening injury occurs to the body, such as a sprain, strain, or bruise, it is best to follow the P.R.I.C.E.S. principle.
Prevention, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, & Support
- PREVENTION - Make weak body areas stronger with rehabilitation to prevent possible injury.
- REST - or Active rest meaning alter their practice to limit the use of the injured area.
- ICE - Ice the injury for 20-25 minutes. Repeat every 1 to 1 1/2 hours in necessary. This helps reduce pain and inflammation.
- COMPRESSION - Wrap the injured area with an elastic bandage to help reduce or help "push out " and reduce the swelling.
- ELEVATION - Elevate the injured area to let gravity get the swelling (or blood) back to the heart. Prop up a leg / foot on a chair or couch.
- SUPPORT - Wear a brace, pad, or tape, etc... on the involved area to try to protect it form re-injury.
Communication is key if assisting all student-athletes. Always inform the coach and athletic trainer ASAP.