Do You Know the Signs of a Concussion?

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Whether you’re currently enjoying football season or hitting up the slopes this winter, it’s important to be aware of the risk of concussions, which can have serious health implications as highlighted in the film Concussion, in theaters now. Susan Park, MD, discusses the effects of concussions and how they can be prevented.

If you’re looking forward to seeing Concussion starring Will Smith, you’re not alone. The much-anticipated medical drama shines light on the dangers of concussions and sport-related head trauma. Although most of us associate concussions with football, many other activities can lead to similar injuries. With the start of the winter sports season, it is important to remember safety to prevent injuries — including concussions. 

According to Susan Park, MD, a Renown Medical Group doctor who specializes in sports and family medicine, concussions are a serious issue — especially among children whose developing brains “are more susceptible to brain injury and long-term effects from concussions.” All parents, coaches and athletes, she points out, should be aware of the signs and symptoms of concussions and take precautions to avoid them.

We asked Dr. Park a handful of the most important questions related to concussions.

What is a concussion and how does it occur?

Dr. Park describes a concussion as a traumatic brain injury resulting from direct or indirect impact to the head or body, during which the brain shakes back and forth in the skull. This may cause some bruising of the brain. In severe cases, traumatic head injuries can cause bleeding, which if not treated quickly, can be fatal.

What are the health implications of a concussion?

Symptoms of drowsiness and confusion can be a sign of a concussion after a head injury. Some short-term effects may include headaches, dizziness and difficulty concentrating. Long-term concerns can further include mood disorders, sleep disturbance and problems with cognitive function-concentration, which may affect school performance.

What sports carry the highest risk of suffering a concussion?

Dr. Park notes participation in any impact sport can result in a head injury. But among school-age kids, she treats more concussions from football and soccer than any other sport. However, during the winter months, skiing and snowboarding injuries can be a common cause of concussions.

Any blow to your head, neck or upper body can result in a concussion with symptoms including, but not limited to, feeling dazed or confused, dizziness, nausea/vomiting or a headache. Initial treatment of concussions varies depending on severity. Rest, avoiding vigorous activity and a reduced school workload help young athletes recover after a concussion. Dr. Park notes that sometimes further imaging and an ER visit will be required. Otherwise, rest from activities is the main treatment, along with not returning to sports activities until further clearance from a healthcare provider.

How can concussions be prevented?

When it comes to sports, knowledge about concussions is key to prevention. Parents and coaches should provide education to kids about awareness and knowledge about concussions. Concussions can be prevented by learning about rules and safety of the sport as well as use of safety equipment — such as helmets, which is recommended with skiing and snowboarding. However, even with the use of helmets, people can still get concussions with a head injury, which is why it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms.

Second Impact Syndrome – experiencing a second concussion before the signs and symptoms of the first concussion have subsided – can cause rapid, and sometimes fatal, brain swelling. Dr. Park notes that it’s important that young athletes do not return to sports too quickly after a concussion and risk sustaining a second head injury, as “repeat concussions can cause more severe and long-term effects.”

So as you head out to the field or slopes, think safety first and grab your helmets!

Renown’s Sports Medicine specialists provide rehabilitation and non-surgical treatments for sports injuries, sports physicals and customized plans to improve performance and conditioning. To learn more, call 775-982-5000.

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