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Use your head: Be smart about concussions CONCUSSION SYMPTOMS ■ Headache ■ Confusion ■ Memory Loss ■ Dizziness ■ Nausea ■ “Seeing stars” ■ Ringing in the ears ■ Trouble concentrating ■ Vision Trouble ■ Lack of Focus

‘Once an athlete has had his or her first concussion, the chances of receiving a second concussion are greatly increased. Therefore, after an athlete has received a concussion it is important to allow the brain to completely heal. Physical activity can interfere with this process.’

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ith football season on the cusp of getting back into action, it seemed as good a time as any to break down concussions — one of the most common footballrelated injuries. How to recognize them. How to treat them. And ways to try and prevent them. A concussion is an injury to the brain that is caused by a rapid acceleration or deceleration of the head or body, usually from an impact or a blow to the head. A concussion, also called a traumatic brain injury, may cause a person to become temporarily confused, disorientated, have memory loss or become unconscious. Signs of a concussion can include the following: Uneven pupils, slurred speech, loss of balance and fainting or loss of consciousness. Sometimes determining a concussion isn’t so obvious, but some symptoms to pay attention to are headache and dizziness among others.

physical rest (no practice) and also neuro-psychological rest (no taxing mental activities) to allow the brain to heal.

Critical situations If an athlete is unconscious on the field, it is imperative to stabilize the athlete’s head and neck and call 911 immediately. If an athlete is showing signs such as convulsions, unequal pupil size, trouble using their legs and arms, repeated vomiting, garbled speech, bleeding from the ears or nose, immediate medical attention is required. These may be signs of a very serious lifethreatening condition.

Health Watch Jamie Faison

Treatment For most head injuries, a thorough examination from a doctor or a neurologist is necessary. If the doctor finds that you indeed have had a concussion, rest is the most common treatment. This means

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Return to play After an athlete has received a concussion and has been examined by a doctor, the next question is usually “When can he or she return to play?” This question is more complicated than it sounds. For a mild concussion, the athlete has to be totally symptomfree for 24 hours before they can begin to gradually re-introduce physical and/or mental exertion. For more severe concussions, a more conservative plan should be used. Refer to your doctor or neurologist for guide-

lines for return to play after a concussion. Once an athlete has had his or her first concussion, the chances of receiving a second concussion are greatly increased. Therefore, after an athlete has received a concussion it is important to allow the brain to completely heal. Physical activity can interfere with this process.

Prevention While it is not possible to totally prevent an athlete from receiving a concussion, there are steps you can take to minimize the chances of a traumatic brain injury. Wearing proper fitting equipment, especially with collision type sports such as football and lacrosse, is very important. In collision sports, it is imperative to teach proper tackling and blocking techniques and learning not to use your head for initial contact. These techniques, in combination with strengthening of the cervical and lumbar stabilizer regions of your body, may decrease the injuries that occur from a direct impact to the body, including concussion. ✪ Jamie Faison is an athletic trainer and certified strength and conditioning specialist for the Sports Medicine For Young Athletes center in Walnut Creek. If you have questions or comments regarding the “Health Watch” column, write the SMFYA staff at Health@ SportStarsMag.com.

August 12, 2010

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Issue 5, 08.12.2010