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Heads Up

Know the Signs of Concussion

By Amy Morgan

 

Game on! With the start of school early in August this year, many student athletes have already been hard at work this summer training for their season’s debut on the courts and fields. Athletic competition builds healthy bodies and helps young people stay active and engaged, but many youth sports involve at least some risk for concussion.

 

The CDC defines a concussion as a traumatic brain injury that affects brain function, usually caused by a blow to the head, although a violent head shake such as whiplash can also be a cause. Effects are usually temporary but can include headaches and problems with concentration, memory, balance and coordination.

 

Zach Baum, M.D., Medical Director of Physicians Premier free-standing emergency room, has head injury advice. While there’s no way to prevent concussion entirely, Dr. Baum recommends a well-fitting helmet. “Helmets, in general, save lives,” he said. “Whether someone is riding a bike, an ATV or playing a contact sport, helmets, when worn properly, make a huge impact.”

 

You may also consider taking your student for a pre-concussion screening to establish a neurologic baseline. Pre-concussion testing generally includes a set of neuropsychological exams developed to assess and score an individual’s ability in several aspects of brain function like coordination, problem solving, vision and response speed. If a concussion is suspected, the athlete can re-take the test, which will provide clear, objective results of any temporary cognitive impairment. Dr. Baum said having a baseline greatly streamlines concussion diagnosis and recovery. 

 

After a fall or head injury, watch for symptoms like headache, ringing in the ears, nausea or vomiting, fatigue or drowsiness, blurry vision, confusion, amnesia, or dizziness.  It’s wise to seek medical attention if you suspect head injury, and especially if the person has lost consciousness. Sometime parents tell Dr. Baum they feel silly that they came in, but, “If you are worried, that’s enough for me,” he said. If Dr. Baum or one of his colleagues suspects a problem, he can order a CAT scan at the Physicians Premier location near the HEB Plus, just west of Highway 281 on Highway 46.

While most who experience concussion recover in a few days, some people experience post-concussion difficulty concentrating or complete schoolwork, sensitivity to light or noise or headaches that refuse to abate for weeks or even months.

It is important not to immediately return to the same highly competitive level of play as prior to the incident. The CDC recommends a six-step protocol to gradually resume play once person is symptom-free. More vigorous activity can be incorporated in stages until the athlete is determined fully ready to rejoin teammates on the field.

 

Don’t be in a rush to resume prematurely, Dr. Baum cautioned. The effects on the brain of a subsequent injury are cumulative, and especially if the first concussion has not completely healed. The key point is to rest your brain and prevent a secondary injury. Follow the CDC’s motto – it’s better to miss one game than the whole season.

Physicians Premier offers all the capabilities of a hospital emergency room without the wait or the crowd.  Find Dr. Baum and his colleagues at MDpremier.com.

  

Symptoms of potential serious injury:

 

  • A headache that gets worse over time fluid or blood draining from the nose or ears

  • Vision or eye disturbances, such as pupils that are bigger than normal (dilated pupils) or pupils of unequal sizes

  • Ringing in the ears that doesn't go away

  • Weakness in the arms or legs

  • Appearing very pale for longer than an hour

  • Changes in behavior

  • Confusion or disorientation, such as difficulty recognizing people or places

  • Slurred speech or other changes in speech

  • Obvious difficulty with mental function or physical coordination

  • Changes in physical coordination, such as stumbling or clumsiness

  • Seizures or convulsions

  • Lasting or recurrent dizziness

  • Symptoms that worsen over time

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