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.
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
- Increased sensitivity to lights, sounds, or distractions
- Blurred vision
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
- Continual ringing in the ears
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
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.