Concussion

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 200,000 people in the United States suffer concussions while playing sports every year. Concussions occur in a wide range of sports and affect all athletes, from professional players to little leaguers.

Signs and Symptoms of Concussion

A concussion is a brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. They can range from mild to severe and can disrupt the way the brain normally works. Most people with a concussion recover quickly and fully. But for some people, symptoms can last for days, weeks, or longer. Those who have had a concussion in the past are at a greater risk for future concussions and may find that it takes longer to recover from additional concussions. Symptoms of concussion usually fall into four categories:

Thinking/Memory- difficulty thinking clearly, feeling slowed down, difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering new information
Physical-Headache, fuzzy or blurred vision, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to light/noise, balance problems, feeling tired, having no energy
Emotional/Mood- Irritability, sadness, more emotional, nervous, anxious
Sleep- Sleeping more than usual, sleeping less than usual, trouble falling asleep

Some of these symptoms may appear right away, while others may not be noticed for days or months after the injury, or until the person starts resuming their everyday life and more demands are placed upon them.

In rare cases, a dangerous blood clot may form on the brain in a person with a concussion and crowd the brain against the skull. Contact your health care professional or emergency department right away if you have any of the following danger signs after a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body:

• Headache that gets worse and does not go away.
• Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination.
• Repeated vomiting or nausea.
• Slurred speech.

Preventing Concussions

Although some sports have higher instances of concussion (such as football, ice hockey, and soccer) concussions can happen in any sport or recreational activity. There are many ways for athletes to reduce their chances of getting a concussion:

• Wear a properly-fitted helmet when riding a bike, motorcycle, snowmobile, scooter, or all-terrain vehicle, or when playing a contact sport. For tips on how to find the right bicycle helmet, visit: http://www.bhsi.org/fit.htm

• Ensure that during athletic games and practices, you are wearing the proper protective equipment and following safety rules for the sport.

• Do not return to play with a known or suspected concussion until you have been evaluated and given permission by an appropriate health care professional.

ImPACT System for Concussion Assessment

After a concussion occurs, one of the most difficult decisions to make is when to allow the concussed athlete to return to play.  Dr. Nathaniel Gould’s Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation practice at Slocum Dickson is equipped with technology to aid in making this important decision.

Utilizing the ImPACT system (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) Dr. Gould is able to conduct baseline and post-concussion testing. ImPACT is a widely used, scientifically valid, computerized concussion evaluation system.  This system allows physicians to assess the athlete soon after the injury and track his/her progress to determine if a full recovery has been made and the athlete can safely return to play.

Baseline testing is becoming more important in managing a player’s recovery.  This 20 minute test evaluates the athlete on multiple functions including: attention span, working memory, sustained and selective attention time, response variability, non-verbal problem solving and reaction time.  Post-concussion test results are compared to baseline test results to help determine the concussed athlete’s progress and when it is appropriate to return to play.

For more information about our concussion program or to schedule an athlete for a baseline test, please call Dr. Gould’s office at (315)798-1647.

Concussion Treatment

Rest is the best way to allow your brain to recover from a concussion. Your doctor will recommend that you physically and mentally rest after a concussion. This means avoiding general physical exertion, including sports or any vigorous activities, until you have no symptoms. This rest also includes limiting activities that require thinking and mental concentration, such as playing video games, watching TV, schoolwork, reading, texting or using a computer. Your doctor may also recommend that you have shortened school day or workdays, take breaks during the day, or have reduced school workloads or work assignments as you recover from a concussion. As your symptoms improve, you may gradually add more activities that involve thinking, such as doing more schoolwork or work assignments, or increasing your time spent at school or work.