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The huddle

March 7, 2019

Handling Concussions Head On

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Concussions are a severe injury that requires attention and recognition immediately before another head injury has the possibility of occurring. As reported by BrainLine in their article “Concussions and Sports,” an estimated 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur in the United States per year, and about 50% are expected not to be reported. A big reason that concussions go unreported is because they do not get diagnosed, this occurs in youth sports and high schools a lot where the athletic trainers are either not present (youth sports) or do not use the proper tests and miss a concussion completely. LRT Sports does not want you to be one of those statistics.

Testing: Collegiate Level

There are a few tests that can be done, the athletic trainer or team doctor if either of those options is available. However, if a concussion is suspected, they should always be seen by a doctor immediately to confirm or deny the presence of a concussion, only then can an athlete return to his sport.  Most athletic training professionals use the SCAT5 or VOMS test and sometimes both to determine if the athlete has concussion symptom and whether or not to see a doctor from there. In talking to an athletic trainer at Michigan State University, “These tests are easy and accessible to use on the field to determine the next steps,” although these tests are pretty user-friendly, they should not be used by an untrained professional. At MSU, they are fortunate enough to have a team doctor for all of the teams, so the athletes do not need to be sent to another doctor to be checked out unless a spinal injury is suspected in which case they would go to the hospital. This is not the case at a smaller school like Olivet college where they have a doctor available at “high risk” sports like football, and just an athletic trainer at rest, according to their athletic trainer.

Testing: High School Level

While the same test is used in high schools, in most cases there is not a doctor available at all sporting events. However, it is common to have one at football practices and games. If there is a hard hit to the head or neck or back, the athlete will be pulled from practice and the game until it is determined by a doctor or trainer whether or not a concussion was obtained. Testing for concussions can be tricky especially when the athlete is at an away game where their athletic trainer did not attend. If the athlete is at an away game the opposing team’s trainer might know what the norm is for the athlete, so while asking the athlete random questions to determine a head injury, it could impede the test. This can affect the concussion test and while an athlete may not have any of the symptoms on paper an athletic trainer that knows the athlete may notice something is off about the athlete and pull them from the game to be safe. This scenario happened to me, I was hit in the head, pulled out of the game, was checked by the opposing team’s trainer, put back in the game. I was foggy and moving slow, ended up getting hit again and then went unconscious.  Because I was not taken care of properly, I ended up missing my senior year of playing the sport I loved. It is crucial for the athletic trainer to go above and beyond with head injuries and all of the testings that go along with it.

Parents and Coaches

The CDC offers free online concussion training. It is beneficial in informing athletes, trainers, coaches, and parents on some of the significant signs and symptoms of a concussion. However, just because a parent or coach has completed the training it does not mean that they are fully qualified to diagnose a concussion, the athletes should still see a trained professional. The training can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/youthsports/training/index.html. Follow the link and look on the left-hand side under online training and select if you are a coach, parent, athlete, or official. In the end, you will get a certificate of the completion of your training that needs to be updated every year, as our understanding of concussions grows.

What to Look for

While this does not replace the concussion training from the link above, it is good to know some of the significant signs and symptoms whether you are an athlete, coach, or parent. It is also important to remember that you DO NOT have to lose consciousness to obtain a concussion. One of the most common symptoms is a headache. A headache might not be instant. It could come the next day; it may worsen with light and sound and could cause nausea and vomiting. A headache will last days and may eventually dull, but not completely go away. While a headache is the most common symptom, it is essential for the athletic staff to know which player often suffer from migraines because in this case, it may not be concussion-related so the athletes should be monitored.  Nausea and or vomiting is also pretty common with a concussion; this can be right after the head injury or provoked by a headache, light, sound, movement, or food. Vision problems could include blurred vision (can lead to dizziness), trouble focusing the eyes, and light sensitivity. Something that the athletic trainers will check is reactiveness of the pupils and ability of them to follow a light. Concentration problem is extremely common as well. The athlete may have trouble focusing in school, work, and everyday life. The athlete will not be able to keep normal eye contact throughout a conversation. The last big key to a suspected concussion is memory loss. Right after the head injury occurs ask the athlete what day and time it is, where they are, and what they were doing when they got hurt.