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SPORTS INJURIES/NUTRITION


Concussion Basics

1. What is a concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury, usually resulting from a blow to the head, which results in an alteration of consciousness. This change in consciousness can vary, ranging from feeling slightly dizzy to being knocked unconscious. In fact, less than 10% of concussions are associated with a loss of consciousness, and some symptoms of concussions can show up hours or days after injury. That is why it can be so difficult to immediately assess a tough athlete: after a violent blow to the head, they may tell their parents, coaches, and peers that they "feel fine" and can remain on the field.

2. In which sports are athletes susceptible to concussions?
Athletes of both genders in all sports can sustain concussions, albeit they occur more frequently in contact sports like football, men's and women's soccer, and men's and women's lacrosse due to the fast-paced nature of the game. Cheer is another big one, so be wary if, after a fall, a fellow cheer member begins misspelling your school's name or starts forgetting the choreography.

3. What are some of the common symptoms associated with concussions?
There are many symptoms to concussions ranging from not "feeling right" to being unconscious for several minutes, but the primary ones that most people can identify are:
Remember, even if symptoms don't immediately appear, you or your athlete may still have a concussion.

4. So you suspect you have or someone else has sustained a concussion. Now what?
Athletes: STOP PLAYING! Even if you feel relatively okay and you're playing in the championship game, you need to tell your parents and/or coaches that you may have sustained an injury and that you need to get assessed by a medical professional. If an athletic trainer is available, usually they will conduct a brief memory test on the sideline. Regardless of your cognitive or physical performance immediately after the hit, you should visit a doctor who is experienced in concussion management (like a neurosurgeon or neurologist) and remain off the field until the doctor gives you the OK.

Parents and Coaches: STOP THEM FROM PLAYING! Don't listen to them if they say they feel fine or if they don't have any immediate symptoms. Get them off the field and assessed by a medical professional experienced in concussion management, and don't let them play until they've received the OK. Watching your children or players win the big game is terrific, but it's not worth the risks (see question 5).

5. What could happen if a concussion is left untreated or is inappropriately treated and you or your athlete continues to participate?
Lots of things could happen, and all of them are bad. The symptoms from the first concussion can persist, resulting in poor athletic and academic performances. If the athlete sustains another hit before the brain fully recovers from the first concussion, it can result in a prolonged recovery and can increase the likelihood of having long-term problems. In rare cases, edema (brain swelling), permanent brain damage, and even death can occur.

6. Are there any basic tips/tricks to reduce the risks of concussions?
Every sport has a different set of equipment requirements and rules, but here are some general and common sense tips on how to reduce the likelihood of sustaining a concussion in all activities:

Sources:
http://www.cdc.gov/TraumaticBrainInjury/statistics.html
http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/index.html