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.
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.
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.
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.