Heads Up on Concussion Safety

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It’s important for athletes, parents and coaches to be aware of signs and symptoms of concussions.  

As summer winds down and kids head back to school, fall sports are kicking into high gear. With all the intense competition taking place on the cross-country trails, volleyball court and football field, injuries can occur — 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 and athletes, she points out, should be aware of the signs and symptoms of concussions and take precautions to avoid them.

As fall sports are getting ready to start, it’s important for parents and children alike to be aware of the risk of concussions, which can have serious health implications.
As fall sports are getting ready to start, it’s important for parents and children alike to be aware of the risk of concussions, which can have serious health implications.

What is a concussion and how does it occur?
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury resulting from direct or indirect impact to the head or body wherein 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. According to Dr. Park, 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?
According to Dr. Park, 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.

How are concussions treated?
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 and not returning to sports 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 of concussion. According to Dr. Park, concussions can be prevented by learning about rules and safety of the sport as well as use of safety equipment — such as helmets.

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.”

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