Concussions can be scary. Thankfully, however, with proper treatment and education, there is no reason for them to be that way. Let’s start off with talking about what a concussion is.
A concussion can be simply defined as a disruption in neurological functioning following a significant impact to the head or elsewhere on the body. This causes a biochemical imbalance within brain cells as well as decreased blood flow and temporary energy deficits within the brain. A concussion is not a bruise to the brain and there is no permanent brain injury that occurs.
Following a suspected concussion, a player should be immediately removed from play, assessed and placed on complete rest in order to recover from the energy deficit. Studies have shown that any activity, both mental and physical, in the immediate days following concussion can delay the process of recovery and should be avoided until the athlete is completely symptom free and has been cleared to progress by a healthcare professional.
Where concussions can get scary is if the above advice is not followed. Suffering a second concussion before you have recovered from the first one is where permanent brain injury, and in some cases even death, can occur. How do you avoid this? There are a number of ways.
- If you are an athlete or work in a career where head injuries may occur, get a baseline test. A baseline test measures your brain function prior to injury. This allows your treating therapist to have a much better idea of when it is safe for you to return to work or sport, and it also helps determine if in fact a concussion has occurred.
- Don’t lie! We all want to stay in the game, but more often than not those who lie about getting a concussion, or keep silent on the fact that they think they have suffered a concussion, end up being out for longer in the end anyways. This is due to not getting proper treatment right away, and sometimes even suffering a second concussion before recovering from the first. This prolongs the athlete’s recovery time, and you are also putting yourself in a potentially very serious situation! Get it dealt with sooner, and be back on the field sooner.
- If you’re a coach, create a culture of openness and educate your players on the importance of reporting concussions. The old adage, you don’t lose your job due to injury is a great philosophy to use with concussions. Encourage your athletes to be truthful about their symptoms and in return, give them their spot back in the line-up when they are ready to return.
- See a therapist that has the appropriate skills and education with regards to concussion. Concussion education is not included in medical or physiotherapy schools, so ensure you see someone who has taken concussion specific education after they graduated.
- Take your time. Most people that get a concussion are cleared to return to work or play within 30 days, assuming you seek treatment within a couple days of the injury occurring. Seeing a qualified therapist and following appropriate return to work/sport protocols will in most cases ensure you are back at it before you know it. And after all, your brain is your most important asset; it’s worth waiting for.