What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury. Concussions, as well as all other head injuries, are serious. They can be caused by a bump, a twist of the head, sudden deceleration or acceleration, a blow or jolt to the head, or by a blow to another part of the body with force transmitted to the head. You can’t see a concussion, and more than 90% of all concussions occur without loss of consciousness. Signs and symptoms of concussion may show up right after the injury or can take hours or days to fully appear. All concussions are potentially serious and, if not managed properly, may result in complications including brain damage and, in rare cases, even death. Even a “ding” or a bump on the head can be serious. If your child reports any symptoms of concussion, or if you notice the symptoms or signs of concussion yourself, your child should be immediately removed from play, evaluated by a medical professional and cleared by a medical doctor.
You should seek medical care and inform your child’s coach if you think that your child may have a concussion that has gone unnoticed via school personnel. Remember, it’s better to miss one game than to have your life changed forever. When in doubt, sit them out.
Once an athlete is cleared for return to activity; the athlete will then begin the return to activity protocol as established through the FHSAA via form AT-18. Regardless of formal concussion diagnosis, the athlete may need to proceed with this return to activity protocol.
Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion
Concussion symptoms may appear immediately after the injury or can take several days to appear. Studies have shown that it takes on average 10-14 days or longer for symptoms to resolve and, in rare cases or if the athlete has sustained multiple concussions, the symptoms can be prolonged. Signs and symptoms of concussion can include: (not all-inclusive)
- Vacant stare or seeing stars
- Lack of awareness of surroundings
- Emotions out of proportion to circumstances (inappropriate crying or anger)
- Headache or persistent headache, nausea, vomiting
- Altered vision
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Delayed verbal and motor responses
- Disorientation, slurred or incoherent speech
- Dizziness, including light-headedness, vertigo(spinning) or loss of equilibrium (being off balance or swimming sensation)
- Decreased coordination, reaction time
- Confusion and inability to focus attention
- Memory loss
- Sudden change in academic performance or drop in grades
- Irritability, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, easy fatigability
- In rare cases, loss of consciousness
What should you do?
Steps to take if you suspect your child has suffered a concussion
Any athlete suspected of suffering a concussion should be:
- Removed from the activity immediately
- Evaluated by an appropriate health care provider (AHCP)
- Complete a return to activity protocol once authorized via treating AHCP
No athlete may return to activity after an apparent head injury or concussion, regardless of how mild it seems or how quickly symptoms clear, without written medical clearance from an appropriate health-care professional (AHCP). In Florida, an appropriate health-care professional (AHCP) is defined as either a licensed physician (MD, as per Chapter 458, Florida Statutes), a licensed osteopathic physician (DO, as per Chapter 459, Florida Statutes).
Close observation of the athlete should continue for several hours.
Return to play or practice
Following physician evaluation, the return to activity process requires the athlete to be completely symptom free, after which time they would complete a step-wise protocol under the supervision of a licensed athletic trainer, coach or medical professional and then, receive written medical clearance of an AHCP.
Dangers of Concussion
DANGERS if your child continues to play with a concussion or returns to activity too soon...
Athletes with signs and symptoms of concussion should be removed from activity (play or practice) immediately. Continuing to play with the signs and symptoms of a concussion leaves the young athlete especially vulnerable to sustaining another concussion. Athletes who sustain a second concussion before the symptoms of the first concussion have resolved and the brain has had a chance to heal are at risk for prolonged concussion symptoms, permanent disability and even death (called “Second Impact Syndrome” where the brain swells uncontrollably). There is also evidence that multiple concussions can lead to long-term symptoms, including early dementia.
Parents and students should be aware of preliminary evidence that suggests repeat concussions, and even hits that do not cause a symptomatic concussion, may lead to abnormal brain changes which can only be seen on autopsy (known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)). There have been case reports suggesting the development of Parkinson’s-like symptoms, Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), severe traumatic brain injury, depression, and long term memory issues that may be related to concussion history. Further research on this topic is needed before any conclusions can be drawn.
CTE and other long term concerns from concussions
Responsibility Parents and students should be aware of preliminary evidence that suggests repeat concussions, and even hits that do not cause a symptomatic concussion, may lead to abnormal brain changes which can only be seen on autopsy (known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)). There have been case reports suggesting the development of Parkinson’s-like symptoms, Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), severe traumatic brain injury, depression, and long term memory issues that may be related to concussion history. Further research on this topic is needed before any conclusions can be drawn.
CDC Concussion information: http://www.cdc.gov/headsup/