Posted on 07/12/2019

concussionWritten by  Dr. Brent Bjornsen

No matter the sport, the risk of injury is always present. As parents, coaches, and health care professionals, our goal is to prevent these injuries from occurring and minimizing their impact when they do occur.

The risk for a contact head injury is present in nearly every athletic activity. We can each play a part in keeping our athletes safe by learning about the signs/symptoms associated with head injuries, as this is one of the most frequently-occurring and potentially dangerous injuries athletes face.

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) sustained from a bump/blow to the head or body, causing the brain to bounce or twist in the skull and disrupting normal function of the brain. Even though most people will recover from a concussion within a couple of days or weeks, some will have enduring symptoms that last for months or longer.

While typically classified as mild TBIs, concussions are still dangerous and commonly left untreated. Nearly 2.8 million sports/recreational concussions occur every year, but only 1 in 6 of them are actually diagnosed. In addition, 25 to 50 percent of all concussions reported to emergency centers are sustained from sports/recreational activities.

When a TBI occurs, it is common to notice that the affected person seems confused or dazed, can’t recall events prior to (or after) impact, forgets instruction from playbook, is moody/irritable or changes behavior, is clumsy or off-balanced, exhibits slow or slurred speech. 

Commonly, symptoms days/weeks after the event include headache or migraine, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or double vision, sensitivity to bright light or loud noises, lethargy, tiredness, inappropriate laughing or crying, difficulty remembering simple tasks.

In severe cases, a hematoma (collection of blood) might form and put pressure against the brain. The following red flags warrant immediate medical evaluation at the nearest emergency center: inability to wake up/intense drowsiness, severe/worsening headache, seizure activity (shaking or twitching), excessive or repeated vomiting, agitation or abnormal behavior, loss of consciousness (even if brief), dilated pupils.

The symptoms associated with a concussion will usually appear within the first couple of minutes or hours after sustaining the injury. However, it’s important to monitor the player throughout the following days, as some symptoms might progress or worsen.

If a concussion is suspected, it’s up to someone (coach, trainer, family member) to remove the player from the game or activity for a formal assessment. It may not be possible to make an initial diagnosis given the circumstances, but a decent preliminary evaluation can be obtained from details of the injury, reported symptoms and exam findings.

When a concussion is suspected, it’s better to err on the side of caution and remove the player from the activity until cleared by a health care provider. Don’t try to judge the severity of an injury yourself. If we’re all vigilant of these signs, symptoms and red flags, our young ones will be much better off in the event of a concussion.

The injured should only return to physical play/training after receiving written approval from their health care provider. It’s important to adhere to the advice and recommendations of the player’s health care provider and aid the player in reporting any new signs or symptoms during recovery.

North Scottsdale Pediatrics

  • Ironwood Office - 9827 N. 95th St. Suite 105, Scottsdale, AZ 85258 Phone: (480)-860-8488
  • Deer Valley Office - 21807 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85255 Phone: (480)-860-8488

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