What is Sports Concussion & How is it Treated?
What is Sports Concussion?
Concussion is a type of a traumatic brain injury which is usually caused by a blow to the head or a traumatic fall to the ground. Concussion temporarily affects the functioning of the brain and can cause problems with concentration, memory, coordination and balance. Sometimes, Concussion can also occur when the body is shaken violently like being in an auto accident. Majority of Concussion occurs when playing contact sports. An individual suffering from Concussion as a result of playing contact sports is said to have had a Sports Concussion.
According to the CDC or the Center for Disease Control in the United States, more than a million people suffer from Sports Concussion every year which is a staggering statistic. Sports Concussion can occur while playing a variety of sports like football, rugby, field hockey, wrestling, and boxing. Sports Concussion can affect professional players who play in the leagues.
Sports Concussion in children take more time to heal than the adults and hence it is important for children who have suffered from Sports Concussion to get treated emergently to prevent long term sequelae from the injury. Majority of people who suffer from Concussion in sports go onto heal uneventfully without any permanent damage to the brain or any other structures of the body.
What are the Causes of Sports Concussion?
Sports Concussion takes place when the head or the skull or brain is violently shaken with excessive force. This can occur either as a result of a direct blow to the head as if by a ball or falling down on the ground with a lot of force, something which is quite common in games like football and rugby. Sports Concussion usually occurs with sports like ice hockey, field hockey, football, baseball, rugby but it can also occur with any other sport where there is a risk of having a fall or being hit on the head.
What are the Symptoms of Sports Concussion?
It is important to recognize the symptoms of Sports Concussion early so as to start treatment emergently and prevent long term complications of Concussion. This is more so in children as they take more time to heal than normal adults from Sports Concussion. There is a common belief that Sports Concussion results in immediate loss of consciousness but this is not always the case. A sportsman can have Sports Concussion even without suffering from loss of consciousness. The symptoms of Sports Concussion are not recognizable straight away but tend to slowly surface after a few days of the injury. The symptoms may be as simple as persistent drowsiness without any known cause or something more complex as cognitive, like having temporary memory loss. Some of the most common symptoms of Sports Concussion are:
- Persistent drowsiness
- Frequent headaches
- Loss of consciousness
- Memory loss
- Frequent irritability
- Problems with balance or unsteadiness
- Persistent dizziness
- Problems with communication like speaking or understanding
- Nausea and vomiting
- Altered sleep patterns.
How is Sports Concussion Diagnosed?
For diagnosis of Sports Concussion, the evaluation begins with a question and answer session between the patient and the care provider in which details of the injury is inquired as to when and how the injury occurred. The physician may also ask the patient whether there was any loss of consciousness immediately after the injury, any balance problems or problems with altered mentation. The physician may also inquire about any prior history of concussions. Once the question and answer is through the medical care provider will then perform a thorough neurological evaluation of the patient checking for balance, coordination, mentation, any changes in vision or hearing, or any change in the reflexes. Radiological studies in the form of MRI or CT scan of the brain will be ordered to look at the internal structures of the brain to check whether there has been any damage to it.
The next step towards diagnosing Sports Concussion is to conduct a neuropsychological assessment in which the patient will be checked for any abnormalities in the mental capabilities of the patient postinjury. During this assessment, the memory both long term and short term will be assessed. Also the patient's concentration, ability to solve simple problems, decision making, and speech will be assessed.
The next stage towards diagnosing Sports Concussion will be a balance assessment as many people with Sports Concussion will have unsteadiness or imbalance for several days following the injury. This assessment will let the doctor know how well the part of the brain which controls movement is functioning. The patient may be asked to walk on a treadmill or a stair stepper and the ability of the patient to walk, run, and jog will be assessed.
Once all these tests are done, based on the results the patient is given a diagnosis of Sports Concussion.
How is Sports Concussion Treated?
The best way to treat Sports Concussion is to take plenty of rest both physically and mentally, so that the brain gets back to normal functioning as soon as possible postinjury and all the symptoms are resolved. It takes roughly around a couple of weeks for the symptoms to resolve.
Once the symptoms are resolved the patient should not get back to sporting activity immediately as it may lead to complications or even risk of another concussion which may be quite serious. Return to activity should be gradual and slow so that when you return to play again the brain is completely healed and all the sequelae of a Sports Concussion is resolved.
The patient needs to return to sporting activity in a stepwise manner meaning that the patient first returns to training and monitor the symptoms. If he or she is able to go through the training session with little to no discomfort then gradually he or she can return back to sporting activity after a Sports Concussion.
What is the Prognosis of a Sports Concussion?
As stated above, a minor case of Sports Concussion may take anywhere between a week to two weeks to resolve. In some cases where the injury is much more severe then it may take up to a month before the patient can start to return back to sporting activities after sustaining a Sports Concussion.