Concussions: Prevent, Recognize & Respond

The arrival of winter means that many of us will head out on the ice or hit the slopes to enjoy our favorite winter sports. Enjoying the many winter activities that are available in our area is a great way to keep fit and get some exercise during the long, cold winter months. However, pushing our physical limits can make us very aware of our body’s limitations, especially after an injury. One serious injury we all need to learn to prevent, recognize and respond to properly is a concussion.

Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), and if that sounds serious, it’s because it is! Any bump, jolt or hit to the head or body has the potential to make the brain move rapidly back and forth, bouncing or twisting in the skull. This can lead to stretching and damage of brain cells and chemical changes in the brain. Most individuals will recover from a concussion quickly and fully, but some may have symptoms that last days, weeks or even months.

Prevent–Concussions can be prevented. The proper protective equipment should be worn at all times, during practice and play. In order to provide the highest level of protection possible, helmets, padding and other protective gear needs to fit properly, be well-maintained and be worn consistently and correctly. Always practice safe playing and participation techniques. Following the rules of play will help to ensure that injuries, if they occur, are minimal. Finally, have a plan in place about what actions to take if an injury does occur. Find out if medical professionals are located nearby and what the quickest routes are to reach help.

Recognize–Recognizing and treating concussions early can help to prevent long-term effects. If you recieve any forceful bump to the head or jolt to the body that causes rapid head movement, be aware of these signs and symptoms of concussion:

  • Headache or “pressure” in the head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivity to light and/or noise
  • Confusion
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy or groggy

Observers can also help spt concussions in athletes and other individuals. Watch individuals that have had a blow to the head or jolt to the body for the following signs of concussion:

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Confusion
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions and directions slowly
  • Can’t recall events prior to or after the hit or fall
  • Loses consciousness-even briefly

It’s important to keep in mind that some individuals may not experience or report symptoms until hours or even days after the injury occurs.

Respond–Like all injuries and illnesses, a quick response will help improve the outcome of a concussion. If you think you or someone you know has a concussion, contact a health care professional immediately. This means leaving the ice or the slopes and sitting out the game! Continuing with the activity can aggravate the injury; don’t return to the sport or recreation activity until a health care professional says it’s OK.

Your health care provider may conduct a number of tests, including CT scans or tests to assess memory or concentration skills, to determine the concussion’s effects on your health. You will be sent home with instructions to follow, and it’s important to do everything as your provider directs.

It may seem like concussions are a fairly common and mild injury, but any head injury is nothing to mess around with! Get some friends together to enjoy your favorite winter sports and activities, but remember to take any incident that may lead to a concussion seriously!

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more information on Concussions and Other Mild TBIs and Concussions in Sports.

To learn more about the health care options available at CCHD/CHCC, click here.