Concussions make up roughly 22% of all soccer related injuries. Despite public awareness and athlete education surrounding concussions, roughly 50% of athletes do NOT report their concussions and return to sport while still symptomatic. These athletes either see no harm in playing with a concussion, believe it will make them look weak, or truly do not realize that they have sustained a concussion. In reality, a concussion should be taken seriously. Playing any sport with a concussion will prolong recovery, and if the athlete were to sustain a second impact, there is the potential for additional and more complicated injuries to the brain, which could even be fatal. This article is meant to educate coaches, athletes, trainers, and parents on how to recognize and manage concussions more effectively.
Recognizing a concussion is the most important step in the management of the injury. Concussions are extremely difficult to recognize because you must rely heavily on athletes reporting their symptoms, and no two people will experience a concussion in the same way. If an athlete sustained a significant hit to the head OR body, you should suspect a concussion. REMOVE THEM FROM PLAY, and assess for symptoms. There are a number of different symptoms that people will experience, including physical symptoms (i.e., headaches, fatigue, dizziness, blurry vision, neck pain, balance issues, nausea), cognitive issues (i.e., poor concentration, memory issues, confusion) and/or emotional disturbances (i.e., irritability, sadness, emotional). If an athlete denies any symptoms, there are still some signs you need to look for:
- Does the athlete appear to be disoriented, slow, or uncoordinated?
- Does the athlete seem to be starring into space or appear dazed and confused?
- Is the athlete sick and vomiting?
- Is the athlete acting odd or out of character?
- Did the athlete lose consciousness?
- Is the athlete unable to respond to simple questions? Is their speech slurred?
If the athlete has any of the above signs or symptoms it is best to err on the side of caution and have a medical practitioner assess and diagnose properly. Early concussion recognition and intervention has been shown to significantly decrease recovery time and improve long-term outcomes. At Sheddon Physiotherapy and Sports Medicine all of our therapists are trained in concussion management and we strive to assess athletes with suspected concussions as quickly as possible.
Importance of a Concussion Baseline Test
A concussion impacts how the brain functions; therefore an MRI and other brain scans will NOT detect a concussion. Furthermore, there is no single clinical test that can be done to know when an athlete has sustained or fully recovered from a concussion. Occasionally, athletes sustain a hit and have a vague concussion pr