The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that sports concussions are occurring in more frequency each year than the last. In 2012, an alarming 3.8 million concussions were recorded by the CDC, which is more than twice the number in 2002. The increase could be a result of an increased number of participants in sporting activities, the increased awareness and diagnosis of concussions early on, or both. When concussions are left undetected, as many are believed to be, there is a high chance for second-impact syndrome, as well as the risk for long-term brain damage and potential fatality.
Concussion Dangers in High School Sports
Many people associate concussion injuries with professional athletes and soldiers in active duty. However, the prevalence of concussion injuries in high school athletes is alarming, with an estimated 20% of such students suffering a concussion each year. 33% of those concussions were not even suffered during a game but during practice instead. It is important to recognize that 90% of concussions are diagnosed without the patient ever losing consciousness. If a coach or parent wants to prevent concussions in high school athletes, they must be aware of all signs of a concussion, not just unconsciousness. The ability to respond quickly and appropriately can be the difference in how a young mind recovers. The moment it is suspected that a child has suffered a brain injury, he or she must be removed from play immediately and sent to a healthcare provider who is experienced in concussion diagnoses.
While all athletes are at risk for concussion, the activities for which concussion accounted for the most emergency room visits include bicycling, football, rugby, hockey, basketball, ice skating, and sledding. For most children under age 9, the incidence of concussion mostly occurred during common playground activities or while riding a bicycle.
Concussion Prevention for Sports & Recreation
To minimize concussion in sports and recreation, keep these easy-to-remember tips in mind:
- Use protective equipment appropriate for the sport or activity, and be sure it is well fitting and used correctly. Loose helmets are significantly less protective than a properly fitted one.
- Adhere to all rules in sports, and use appropriate and safe techniques, especially when playing high contact sports like football and rugby.
- Educate each athlete about injury prevention, strengthening, and screening before the season even begins.
If you suspect a concussion, the athlete should be immediately removed from sport due to the risk of second impact syndrome. In addition, it is important to stay with the athlete to monitor symptoms closely and a medical professional should be contacted. Diagnostic testing is not generally warranted but it is important to medically clear fractures and brain bleeds if symptoms are present. Athletes should be removed from sport until there is complete resolution of symptoms and he or she is cleared by a trained healthcare provider. Some athletes require treatment by a physical therapist who is specially trained to assess, treat symptoms, and return the athlete back to sport safely and in a timely manner.
Summertime Hazards That Can Lead to Concussions
Frequented by athletes of all ages, sports camps are becoming a popular summer destination. With warmer weather and an increase in activity, injury prevention and management should be at the forefront with both coaches and parents alike. In just about every sport or activity at a summer camp – such as soccer, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, baseball or softball, hockey, cheerleading, and gymnastics – there is a risk of a concussion injury, and thousands of concussions suffered in such activities will be reported annually.
Spotting the Signs of a Concussion
How do you recognize the signs of concussion in a young athlete? To begin, a concussion does not have to be a result of a blow to the head with “blacking out” occurring. Concussions can occur with shaking or rapid head movements and more often than not leave the athlete fully conscious. Concussion symptoms generally appear within a few minutes of the injury but some can take weeks to months to appear.
The most common concussion symptoms include:
- Headache or migraine
- Fogginess or difficulty staying focused
- Nausea and vomiting
- Vision and hearing changes
- Difficulty speaking or swallowing
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Behavioral mood swings
- Memory loss or alteration
Once again, remove any athlete from play immediately if you suspect he or she has suffered a head injury or concussion. Immediate care from a doctor should be sought to catch any potential complications early on. Do not take a chance and assume the best after a concussion may have happened.
After diagnosing a concussion, many doctors will recommend physical therapy as a treatment. Due to its gentle, effective, and precise methods, physical therapy can help alleviate concussion symptoms without putting any more stress on the patient. To learn about concussion treatment options that might be right for you or loved one, call 732.333.6360 to connect with ProFysio and our Monmouth County physical therapy specialists. We have a variety of therapy options that may be necessary, and all of our physical therapists are also Doctors of Physical Therapy, providing unmatched care and insight.