Concussions: Caution Is a No-Brainer
It's better to miss a game than a whole season. That's the key message of a campaign by the CDC aimed at an underrated health threat: sports-related concussions.
"We're glad to see that the message gets out to the public," says Aaron Lear, DO, primary care sports medicine physician at Akron General. "There has been a lot done here is the state of Ohio through the Ohio High School Athletic Association that requires mandatory training for physicians, emergency medical professionals, athletic trainers, coaches and even students."
Concussions are considered a mild traumatic brain injury caused by a blow or jolt to the head that causes the soft tissue of the brain to knock against the skull's bony surface. Although they range from mild to severe, they're all serious injuries that can harm the way the brain works. For many of these injuries, the athletes do not lose consciousness, but still suffer the injury.
Concussions can happen to anyone in any sport, says the CDC. The short-term effects of a concussion usually resolve within a few weeks, but in rare cases can cause ongoing problems. During the period they are symptomatic, young athletes can experience issues with memory, they can have difficulty concentrating in school, relating to other kids, or sleeping well.
Athletes should be held out of competition until their symptoms have resolved. Returning to practice or the game too early can result in re-injury with symptoms that last longer and are more severe. There have been rare cases reported of athletes suffering devastating brain injuries when returning to sport while symptomatic.
"The key is to be evaluated quickly, so that re-injury doesn't occur. Having an adult on the sidelines, as well as other athletes, who are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussion can help stop re-injury from happening," says Jeff Peiffer, DO, primary care sports medicine physician with Akron General.
Teammates have to keep an eye on each other. Athletes must also let everyone know if they hurt their heads.
"Athletes in the past have been reluctant to report their symptoms due to fear of being removed from competition. As we have learned more about concussions, we know that this is a mistake and that we should be educating kids, parents and coaches to encourage reporting of symptoms to avoid any significant long-term consequences of continuing to play with the injury," says Rachel Hummel, DO, primary care sports medicine physician with Akron General.
Parents should make sure that children wear the right safety gear during all practices and games and that schools have a concussion plan. If you think your athlete has a concussion, the CDC says:
Seek medical help at once.
Bench your child until a health care professional who knows the return-to-play guidelines says it's OK to play.
Tell all your child's coaches about any recent concussion.
To make an appointment with Akron General Sports Medicine doctors for concussion evaluation, counseling or other sports medicine concerns, please call 330-344-4115. Akron General Sports Medicine is part of the Akron General Orthopedic Center and offers complete care for youth, teen and adult athletes, including injury evaluation, medical and surgical management of injuries, sports therapy and sports performance.
For more information about concussions, visit the CDC's website.