The awareness, evaluation and treatment of concussions are a hot topic lately. In the sports world especially, we are hearing about it more and more. The NFL is attempting to limit the exposure of its players to violent hits and fining (or even suspending) the players that do deliver these types of hits. Pee wee football coaches are trying to teach better tackling and not to lead with the helmet to not only protect the brain but also the spine to avoid catastrophic injuries such as spinal cord injury.
However, concussions are not only present in football. In almost every sport there is a chance for head injury and thus concussions. The sport with the highest rate of concussions is actually women’s soccer.
Concussions are common with the CDC estimating 1.6 – 3.8 million occurring annually. In 90% of these, loss of consciousness does not occur. The symptoms of concussions include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dizziness and problems with balance
- Blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
- Memory difficulties
The so called “Second Impact Syndrome” (SIS) is when an athlete sustains a second concussion while still not recovered from the first. During the recovery period of a concussion, even minor trauma, such as a trivial hit to the head, can cause significant increases in intracranial pressures and devastating consequences.
The best way to manage concussions is to treat them appropriately when they do occur. A coordinated effort between the athletic trainer, physicians involved, neuropsychologist, the athlete, the athlete’s family as well as the coach should be undertaken in order to have a safe return to play and/or to exertion. A recent article in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery discussed the matter and made the following points:
- Acute concussion symptoms are mostly self limited with resolution within two weeks
- Athletes should rest physically and cognitively until symptoms have resolved at rest and with exertion
- Neuropsychological testing should be used as part of overall evaluation when attempting to decide when an athlete is ready to return
- A history of multiple concussions or a history of prolonged symptoms might necessitate retirement from collision/contact sports
- Additional research still needed on long term consequences of concussions
Dr. Christian Balldin is an orthopaedic surgeon, fellowship trained in sports medicine, with The San Antonio Orthopaedic Group. He treats patients aged 3 years and up for all orthopaedic conditions with the exception of the spine. To learn more about Dr. Balldin, visit his web page here. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Balldin, call 210.281.9595.
To link to the study that Dr. Balldin is referencing, click here.