Young Athlete Concussions: Know the Signs and Next Steps
Concussions continue to be a prominent topic in the news. However, a lot of the conversations on TV revolve around athletes in professional and college ranks that have teams of medical professionals surrounding them to help diagnose and treat their injuries. Even at the high school level, there are frequently well-trained athletic trainers to guide the treatment process of injured athletes.
But as the popularity of club sports grows in all age groups, more athletes are competing in settings where there is limited trained medical supervision. Therefore, coaches and parents are usually the first one to evaluate an athlete with a head injury on the field.
If you have a young athlete playing a sport, here are a few key points to remember regarding concussions that are universal to treatment:
- Know the Signs
A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by trauma directly to the head or body that results in the brain being shaken or jolted inside the skull.
There are over 20 signs and symptoms for concussion. The most common are headache, dizziness, fogginess and nausea. The athlete may also complain of difficulty concentrating, blurry vision or difficulty remembering the plays.
If any of these symptoms are present, the athlete should be removed from the game and evaluated by a medical professional experienced in treating concussions. Do not allow an athlete with a suspected concussion to return to the game!
- Next Steps
For student athletes, concussions can cause serious difficulties and limitations. They may have difficulty focusing in class, working on computers for extended periods of time, difficulty taking notes from the board and even simply reading.
You should remove the athlete from the aggravating tasks until evaluation by a pediatrician, family doctor or concussion specialist is made.
Once evaluated, proper accommodations such as reduced workloads and extra time to complete assignments should be arranged as suggested by your healthcare provider.
- After School Accommodations
Accommodations don’t end at the end of the school day. The same difficulties the student has in school translate to out-of-school activities too. Things such as watching TV, playing video games and extended time on a cell phone can trigger severe symptoms.
Parents must supervise children and remove aggravating activities that may slow the healing process. Close follow up with the doctor will help guide parents and school administration as to when it is OK to return to normal activity.
- Return to Play
The final decision on when it is safe to return the athlete to competition will be made by your supervising medical professional.
Some landmarks to keep in mind to help guide the decision for final clearance include complete symptom resolution, a return to all schoolwork and testing without accommodations and light exercise without symptoms.
Concussions are a complex injury to diagnose and treat. Fortunately, due to the increased scrutiny in sports and increased focus of research, our ability to understand and treat concussions continues to grow. However, the effects of concussions don’t stop at the sidelines. They affect the student’s performance in school and social life outside of school. Therefore parents, coaches and teachers should be aware of the basic signs of the injury, how to properly evaluate and treat them.
We help to diagnose the sometimes subtle symptoms and guide you through safe and effective concussion recovery. We treat age specific concussions.
Contact us for an evaluation of a middle-school, high-school or college-aged athlete who has experienced a sports-related injury and who might suffer from a concussion.