Sports Concussions: Know the Signs

Traumatic brain injuries are more common than one may think. One of the most common types of traumatic brain injury is a sports concussion. A sports concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that usually occurs due to some sort of force acting on the head or neck. It causes microscopic injury to the brain. A sports concussion can affect any athlete, from a little league to a professional player.

According to the Journal of Athletic Training, of all the sports, women’s soccer was found to have the highest injury rate of concussions. This can be linked to the fact that soccer is an aggressive sport, and protective headgear is not required while playing. Sports concussions also commonly occur in high-contact sports such as football, rugby, lacrosse and basketball.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of a sports concussion include headache, nausea, dizziness and confusion. Some may experience more severe symptoms such as vomiting and difficulty sleeping. Some may exhibit increased emotions immediately following a sports concussion. They may become suddenly upset and lose the ability to control their emotions on the field. In the days following injury, one may experience headache, fatigue, irritability and sensitivity to light and noise.

Often, a sports concussion goes undiagnosed. If one suspects they have a sports concussion, they most likely do, and it is recommended to seek medical attention. A diagnosis can be made by describing symptoms and the event to a healthcare provider. While in medical care, the athlete also will undergo a full neurological and physical evaluation to ensure no further injuries are present.

Recovery

If an athlete does not remove themselves from the game after experiencing a head injury, there is an increased risk of other orthopaedic injuries that may take longer to heal. There is a common myth about not allowing someone to sleep after a concussion; this is simply not true. One should sleep to allow the brain to rest, heal and repair itself. Athletes should not return to activity until after they have followed up with a healthcare provider who determines that they have properly recovered.

Minimizing Risk

Minimize the risk of a sports concussion by wearing the recommended protective equipment and following the rules of the game, as these rules are created to protect participants from injury and keep them safe. Also, staying on top of one’s health, getting enough sleep, eating well, and staying hydrated will help all players to perform at their best both mentally and physically.

Erica Martin, MD, is with ProMedica Physicians Family Medicine | Sports Medicine. Learn more about concussions and other sports medicine services and conditions.