It's a Knock Out: Concussion 101
It’s on every sportspersons mind…. So to speak.
What damage are we really doing to our brains when we cop that knock to the head during a tackle or hit the water hard during a kite-surfing session? In recent times there has been a lot more importance placed on the awareness of symptoms and treatment of concussion, so much so that a Hollywood blockbuster movie has been produced starring Will Smith dealing with issues surrounding concussion in sport. This focus has led to sporting codes bringing in mandatory screening after a head knock and rules limiting the availability of athletes if there is a presence of concussion.
In this blog we look at the symptoms of, causes, effects of and management of a concussion.
What is Concussion?
The brain sits inside the skull and is cushioned by spinal fluid, but even this is not enough to protect it completely from damage when a strong force is applied. If you cop a hit to the head that is strong enough it can literally cause some movement of the brain within the skull. This causes micro-damage to the soft tissue that makes up the brain, the blood vessels that provide nutrients to the brain and also the nerves that relay messages to and from the brain. Not usually life threatening but potentially life altering if multiple concussions occur over time or a bad enough hit.
What are the symptoms?
- Concussion can lead to one, or all of these symptoms:
Short period of unconsciousness (30 minutes or less)
Amnesia (lasting less than 24 hours normally)
What is the treatment/management of Concussion?
If someone you know is suspected to have had a concussion, then it is best to refer them to a doctor and provide some details to that doctor about the mechanism of injury and symptoms of the person. If the concussion appears to be quite severe (memory loss, headaches, confusion etc.) the likelihood is that the doctor or those around should prevent the athlete from continuing playing that day and be monitored throughout the following week for persistent symptoms and if severe be pulled out of the next game. For contact sports like Aussie Rules Football or Rugby etc. that have heavy collisions there should be a concussion proformas on the sidelines that determine the extent of the concussion. Examples of questions on this proforma are “What is your birthdate?” “How did you get to the game today?” “What day of the week is it?”
The best treatment for someone with concussion is some supervised rest, but not necessarily sleep. Try to get the person involved into a calm and low-key environment where they can relax but also continue to communicate and be involved.
Be aware!... Concussion does not only affect athletes or players of contact sports as many people believe. Concussion can really impact on a wide range of people, any sudden change of direction, whiplash style of incident can provoke some concussion. So if you have any of the symptoms above and an incident that you believe may have caused them, contact a healthcare professional.