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Heads up: Concussions far more than ‘getting your bell rung’

POSTED: August 08, 2016

As every coach and parent knows, it’s difficult to keep a talented and ambitious athlete sidelined after a concussion.

Young athletes today feel invincible -- they often view playing when injured as a badge of courage and strength. But when it comes to concussions, nothing could be further from the truth.  

Returning to play before the brain has completely healed increases the risk of repeat concussions, which can be very serious and lead to life-long health issues, said David Buck, MD, who specializes in sports medicine for Kettering Health Network. 

Raising awareness through education

Positive press on head injury prevention from the NFL has been instrumental in bringing the seriousness of concussions to the forefront.

In addition, concussion legislation passed by Ohio and other states, plus resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s HEADS UP to Brain Injury Awareness campaign, have provided a solid foundation for educating athletes, parents, coaches and sports officials on the signs and symptoms of concussions. They also emphasize the importance of creating an action plan for the removal and return of an injured athlete.

Concussion symptoms can show up right after the injury, or they may not appear or be noticed until days or weeks after the injury. The CDC’s HEADS UP campaign cites the following symptoms of concussion:

Signs observed by parents

  • Appears dazed, stunned or confused
  • Forgets instruction
  • Is unsure of game, score or opponent
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Shows mood, behavior or personality changes

“Parents can pick up on objective changes in personality that might otherwise go unnoticed. They should immediately report any concerns to a medical professional,” explained Robin Lensch, an athletic trainer with Kettering Health Network.

Symptoms reported by athletes

  • Headache or “pressure” in head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance issues or dizziness
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light and/or noise
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Confusion
  • Just not “feeling right” or “feeling down”

Danger signs

The athlete should be seen in the emergency department immediately if he/she has:

  • One pupil (black part in center of eye) larger than the other
  • Drowsiness or cannot be awakened
  • A headache that gets worse and does not subside
  • Weakness, numbness, or decrease coordination
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Slurred speech
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Difficulty recognizing people or places
  • Increased confusion, restlessness or agitation
  • Any unusual behavior
  • Loss of consciousness (even briefly)

What to do if you suspect a concussion

  1. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION RIGHT AWAY. Doctors at Kettering Health Network Sports Medicine can evaluate your child and determine that the next steps should be.
  2. KEEP YOUR CHILD OUT OF PLAY. Do not let your child return to play until he or she has been cleared by a medical professional

It is important for athletes to be removed from play if they experience any concussion symptoms,” said Dr. Buck. “This helps to prevent Second Impact Syndrome, which happens when an athlete sustains another concussion before completely recovering from the first. Second Impact Syndrome can result in the brain swelling, paralysis and death.”

“Each new concussion creates a greater susceptibility to another one. It’s imperative that coaches know about all concussions, even from other sports,” said Lensch.

Kettering Health Network Sports Injury Clinics offer daily appointments and sports physicals at a variety of locations, where orthopedic surgeons and primary care physicians specializing in sports medicine are available, as well. Click here more for information about KHN’s fall sports clinics and locations.