Summer  fun carries a risk of head injury.

Summer is a great time to be active, but it’s important to remember that many summertime sports come with the risk of serious injury, including concussions.

What Are Concussions?

A concussion is a type of brain injury, a short loss of normal brain function in response to head trauma. Concussions are a common type of sports injury, and may be suffered due to a blow to the head (hit in the head by a pitch in baseball) or hitting the head during a fall (taking a tumble while rock climbing).

People with concussions often cannot remember what happened immediately before or after the injury and may act confused. Paramedics and athletic trainers who suspect a person has suffered a concussion may ask the injured person if they know their name, what month or year it is, and where they are.

No Such Thing as a Mild Concussion

Although doctors often describe concussions as mild because they may not be life-threatening, the effects can be serious and often require medical attention. Even supposedly mild concussions should not be taken lightly. Neurosurgeons and other brain-injury experts emphasize that although some concussions are less serious than others, there is no such thing as a minor concussion.

In most instances, a single concussion will not cause permanent damage. A doctor will use a neurologic exam and imaging tests to diagnose a concussion, and most people will recover fully, but it can take some time. Rest is very important to help the brain heal. A second concussion soon after the first one, however, does not have to be very strong for its effects to be permanently disabling.

Concussion Symptoms

Symptoms of a concussion may not become apparent immediately, and may start days or even weeks after an injury. Some of the signs of concussion in an adult include:

  • Chronic headaches or neck pain
  • Difficulty remembering, concentrating, and making decisions
  • Sluggishness in thinking, speaking, acting, or reading
  • Becoming easily confused
  • Getting lost
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Having no energy or motivation
  • Excessive mood changes
  • Major changes in sleep patterns
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, or problems with balance
  • Nausea
  • Increased sensitivity to lights, sounds, or distractions
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Continual ringing in the ears
  • Seizures

Children who have suffered a concussion may exhibit some of the same signs as adults, but it may be harder for them to describe their symptoms. Some things to look for include:

  • Unusual tiredness or listlessness
  • Will not stop crying or is inconsolable
  • Refuses to eat or nurse
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Modifications in the way the child plays
  • Variations in school performance
  • Sudden lack of interest in favorite toys or activities
  • Loss of certain newly acquired skills, such as toilet training
  • Unsteadiness or loss of balance
  • Nausea and vomiting

Preventing Concussions

While many sports-related injuries are inevitable and unavoidable, simply wearing the right protective gear and getting the proper training required for the activity could prevent many of them. For example, wearing a helmet while biking, skateboarding, or riding an all terrain vehicle (ATV) can be one of the best ways to prevent a concussion.

Image by Allan Ajifo.

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