Concussions are a serious concern for athletes and children engaging in sports and physical activities. These traumatic brain injuries can have long-lasting effects on cognitive function, balance, and coordination if not properly addressed. As participation in sports continues to grow, understanding how to prevent and manage concussions becomes increasingly important for the well-being of athletes and kids.
The key to prevention lies in being well-informed about the risks associated with concussions, adopting appropriate protective measures such as improving neck function, and promoting safe sporting practices. By implementing these strategies, athletes, kids, parents, and coaches can mitigate the likelihood of concussion and ensure a safer environment for everyone involved in sports and recreational activities.
- Knowledge about concussion risks and symptoms plays a crucial role in prevention.
- Athletes and children should adopt protective measures for a safer sporting environment. Functional neck training is a key component of a protective measure that any athlete can take.
- Coaches, parents, and medical professionals are essential in managing concussion risks and treatment.
Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a sudden bump, blow, or jolt to the body or head, making your brain move rapidly back and forth. This movement can lead to chemical changes in your brain cells, affecting their functioning. It’s crucial to remember that not all head impacts will result in a concussion, and symptoms may not always be apparent immediately. It is also important to note that many symptoms of concussion can be due to injury to the upper neck. Many of our patients have eliminated their headaches, nausea and other symptoms with a complete neck rehabilitation program.
Potential Impacts of Concussions
Concussions can have both short-term and long-term effects on your overall health and daily functioning. Here are some potential impacts:
- Physical Symptoms: Dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, balance problems, and sensitivity to light or noise. These may appear minutes to hours after the injury.
Cognitive Symptoms: Difficulty focusing, memory problems, or slower thinking. These can make it challenging to perform daily tasks, such as work or school activities.
- Emotional Symptoms: Mood changes, irritability, anxiety, and depression. These can affect relationships and overall well-being.
- Energy Symptoms: Low energy is common across most concussion injuries. We can spend our daily energy on physical, cognitive or emotional tasks but when the energy is gone it’s gone. This is why we give clients strategies around pacing and planning of daily activities.
- Long-term Effects: Repeated concussions or severe cases can increase the risk of developing chronic neurological illnesses, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) or post-concussion syndrome (PCS).
By understanding concussions and their potential impacts, you can make informed decisions to protect your brain health and prevent complications down the line.
Prevention Tips for Athletes
Proper Use of Equipment
Wearing appropriate and well-fitted equipment can prevent concussion or reduce the severity of a concussion injury. Invest in high-quality helmets, mouthguards, and padding, which can significantly reduce concussion risk. Always adhere to the manufacturer guidelines for fitting, maintenance, and replacement of equipment. In addition, maintain good posture and use proper techniques to avoid putting unnecessary strain on your head and neck.
Strengthen Your Neck and Increase Neck Function
At Parkway we use the RAM4 to test your neck reaction time, neck strength, and control of your head motions in multiple planes. We then work with each person to create a strength and conditioning program that will not only help prevent concussion injury, but also improve sport performance.
Testing neck function is also one of the tests we use before a return to sport decision is made. Many times we have seen an athlete recover from symptoms such as headache or brain fog but when we test neck function we can that person’s reaction time and strength (often on one side) significantly outside of expectations. These are individuals at higher risk of reinjury even though they may feel normal
Rest Recovery and Regeneration
Your body requires rest and recovery for optimal performance and overall health. Prioritize proper sleep, nutrition, and hydration. An exhausted brain is more vulnerable to concussion.
If You’ve Had a Concussion, Rest….But Not Too Much
Should you suspect or experience a concussion, immediately inform your coach, seek medical attention, and follow the established concussion protocol. Lastly, resist the pressure to return to play prematurely and gradually ease into activities as you recover.
A progressive and active rehabilitation program usually begins fairly early after a concussion injury. The days of resting until your symptoms have subsided are over. Those who begin an active approach typically have a shorter duration of symptoms than those who rest until symptoms resolve
If you had a concussion or think you’ve had a concussion call us at Parkway and we will priority book you or your child for an assessment and treatment plan.
Implementing these prevention strategies can help protect you from concussion and its lasting impacts. Always prioritize safety and the overall well-being of both yourself and your fellow athletes.
Protection Strategies for Kids
Safe Play Guidelines
To keep your kids safe from concussions, it’s essential to follow safe play guidelines. Encourage your children to:
- Adhere to the rules: Ensure your kids understand and follow the rules of the sport they participate in. This includes respecting officials, coaches, and other players.
- Use appropriate gear: Make sure your kids have the right protective equipment, such as helmets, mouth guards, and pads. Ensure these are the correct size and fit.
- Practice proper techniques: For instance, teach them to tackle or head the ball correctly, depending on the sport. This will minimize the risk of head injuries.
- Promote fair play: Encourage respect for opponents and teamwork, helping to reduce potential colliding incidents.
- Implement a safe environment: Regularly inspect and maintain the playing fields to make sure they are free from hazards that could lead to injuries.
Educating Kids About Concussions
Educating your kids about concussions is a crucial step in prevention. Teach them the importance of:
- Recognizing symptoms: This includes headaches, dizziness, nausea, difficulty concentrating, or sensitivity to light and noise. Encourage your kids to report any symptoms immediately to a coach or trusted adult, especially if these symptoms occur after a jolt or knock to the head or upper body.
- Preventing concussions Neck function is critical for all of us but most especially for kids where the weight of the head is relatively higher compared to body mass. Get tested on our RAM4 system and get trained by our clinical team mates who treat concussion injuries regularly! Neck function controls the head which controls how much the brain moves inside the skull.
- Taking concussions seriously: Make sure your kids understand the potential long-term effects of concussions and the importance of seeking proper treatment.
- Taking time to heal: Reinforce the idea of taking appropriate rest time after an injury. Returning to play too soon might result in more severe symptoms. This said, rest for only a few days before seeing our team for a treatment plan. Prolonged rest is shown to increase the risk of Post-Concussion Syndrome where symptoms persist for 3 months or longer. An early active approach to concussion care has the strongest evidence base.
- Supporting their peers: Encourage your kids to watch out for signs of concussions in their teammates and to report any concerns to an adult.
- Return to learn Getting caught up on school work and helping the brain take on the cognitive tasks of school is our first functional goal
By following these protection strategies, you can significantly reduce the risk of concussions in your kids while they enjoy their favorite sports.
Role of Coaches, Trainers and Parents
Early Detection and Response
As a coach or parent, it’s crucial to recognize the signs of a concussion promptly. Encourage athletes and kids to report any head injury, even if it seems minor. Be aware of the common symptoms, such as:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sensitivity to light or noise
If you suspect a concussion, remove the athlete from play immediately and consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. Reinforce the importance of full recovery before returning to play, as it helps prevent long-term complications. Your Parkway concussion therapist will help you gather as much pertinent information as possible in order to make the best decisions on treatment and return to life, school and sport. We can also help to educate your team about on field concussion assessment tools for teams with coaches or trainers interested in having these resources.
RELATED READING: Do I Have a Concussion? Understanding Concussion Symptoms
Medical Examination and Treatment
When to Seek Medical Help
Concussions can be tricky to identify, but early medical intervention is crucial for a full recovery. If you or your child experiences any of the following symptoms after a head injury, seek medical help immediately:
- Loss of consciousness
- Severe headache or dizziness
- Confusion or memory loss
- Nausea or vomiting
- Difficulty balancing or walking
It’s important to recognize that concussion symptoms may not be immediately apparent and can develop over time. Remember that it is the rapid motion of the head that causes a concussion injury therefore even a fall or sharp blow to the body that does not seem to strike the athlete’s head directly can result in a concussion injury. Stay vigilant, and if any new symptoms emerge, contact a healthcare professional.
Most tests post-concussion are stressful to the brain. Examples include reaction time, somatosenory (vibration) testing, pen and paper tests, memory recall tests and the so called Impact test. Since there is an energy crisis in the healing brain, these tests are often extremely tiring to the individual. We also have many of these tests including the Brain Repair Protocol from CAP Health. This test includes the Brain Gauge to provide measures on:
- Cortical metric (the summary of your brain function)
We also recommend a Neurocatch Assessment which captures event related potentials (ERP’s). Since the test uses very brief inputs and measures the brain’s electrical response it is quick, objective and gentle to the healing brain.
ERP’s provide brain function information to three brief stimuli:
- Basic attention
- Cognitive processing
Once a concussion has been diagnosed, proper care is essential for recovery. Your healthcare provider will likely suggest a personalized plan, but here are some general guidelines to follow:
- Rest: Give your brain time to heal. Avoid physical and mental activities that cause symptoms to worsen, such as sports, screen usage, or loud environments. After a few days of rest, see us at Parkway to begin rehabilitation and get your care plan underway.
- Gradual return to activities: As your symptoms improve, you can gradually return to your regular activities. Start with light exercise and increase the intensity as tolerated. Speak with your Parkway therapist to determine when it’s safe to return to sports or contact activities.
Note that we progress every concussion patient through a series of step by step return to school, life and sport before discharge.
- Neck rehabilitation As we say at Parkway, the neck rarely escapes a concussion injury. Neck injuries mimic concussions in that they also cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and more. Please see one of our health professionals to ensure your neck has a thorough assessment and treatment plan.
- Dizziness rehabilitation Not all concussion patients have dizziness issues but for those of you who do, it is an incredibly disorienting and can be scary. We will help to assess whether these symptoms are coming from the brain, the brain stem, or the upper neck.
- Visual rehabilitation We estimate that about half of our brain’s energy demands are related to visual processing. Symptoms such as light sensitivity, trouble reading and focussing, difficulty in busy environments, and eye tracking are all common post-concussion symptoms. We will help you or your child to navigate each of these areas in a gentle and progressive manner
- Cardiovascular rehabilitation In the gradual return to activities section above we will progress your heart rate ramping in order to get more blood flow and oxygen to your brain. This can be a tricky area of rehabilitation and it’s important that we do not push into symptom provocation. Please see us for a guided approach to a safe starting point and progression to heart rate and blood pressure rehabilitation.
- Medication: Speak with your doctor. Medications are typically specific to the presenting symptoms.
- Support: Talk to your family, friends, and coaches about your concussion. They can provide understanding, encouragement, and assistance throughout your recovery.
More importantly, if you are having mental health challenges after a concussion injury. Please see our mental health specialist Michelle Maxwell who can you navigate your way back to normal life.
- Long Term Concussion Care. Prolonged concussion symptoms is called Post-Concussion Syndrome. We have resources to help you create a plan of care, get evidence based treatment and take positive steps day by day to your own treatment plan.
Remember, each person’s recovery from a concussion is unique. Patience and self-care are key to ensuring a successful recovery. And with the proper medical examination and treatment, you’ll be back on the field or playground in no time.