School Beat

Athletes and Concussions

 

Tim Erickson

Rockford High School, Director of Athletics

 

Head injuries, including concussions, have become a subject of deep concern, much study, and even recent Congressional hearings. News about lawsuits in the NFL regarding concussions has added awareness and anxiety to this concern. At Rockford, we are continually updating our training staff, coaches, and athletes with best practices and procedures for treating head trauma. As parents, we also need to understand head trauma so we can determine what to do if one of our children suffers a head injury.

Concussions are a type of brain injury that can range from mild to severe and can disrupt the way the brain normally works. Concussions can occur in any sport or recreational activity resulting from a fall or from players colliding with each other, the ground, or obstacles. Children and teens take longer to improve from concussions and go back to normal activities than adults, because their brains are still growing and developing and need more time to heal. Although most athletes will recover from a concussion without any permanent damage, once an athlete suffers a head injury, the chance of sustaining another one during his or her youth is higher. Second impact syndrome is a potentially fatal injury that can occur if an athlete gets a second head injury before the first head injury has completely cured. This is why all Rockford High School athletes who suffer a concussion must get written approval from a doctor before returning to practice or competition.

Surprisingly, most concussions occur without the athlete being “knocked out” or his or her actual loss of consciousness, which is why it is important to know the signs of a concussion. These signs or symptoms of a concussion may last for days, weeks, or even longer. If your son or daughter is injured, and especially if it involves a blow to the head, parents should watch for any of these signs of a concussion: headache, nausea, feeling dazed or confused, memory loss, balance problems, dizziness, blurred vision or sensitivity to light, or feeling tired, sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy.

Symptoms of a concussion can occur right away, but often do not show up until hours or even days after the injury. Once an athlete is diagnosed with a concussion, the treatment includes rest and time away from physical activity. Getting a good night’s sleep is important for the brain to recover. When a physician has cleared the athlete, it is recommended that they slowly return to their regular physical and mental activities.

The athletic training staff at Rockford High School uses a concussion program called “ImPACT.” ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) provides a computerized neurocognitive assessment tool that is used by our athletic training staff to assist them in determining severity of head trauma, which helps them to make decisions about when an athlete should return to play after suffering a concussion. Neurocognitive testing is a questionnaire the athlete takes by computer that tests multiple areas of brain function including memory, problem solving, reaction times, brain processing speeds, and post-concussion symptoms. Rockford athletes that compete in contact sports have a pre-injury baseline test on file to compare to post-concussion testing. This information has been very helpful to the trainer and physician in determining when an athlete can return to physical activity.

Sometimes athletes are hesitant to share their symptoms with a coach, trainer, or parent. They need to understand the seriousness and consequences of any head injury. It is important to inform a coach, athletic trainer, and healthcare provider if your child has ever had a concussion or suffered from concussion-like symptoms. The Michigan High School Athletic Association has links to some very useful resources regarding concussions:www.mhsaa.com/Schools/HealthSafety Resources.aspx. If you would like more information or have any concerns regarding head injuries or athletic training services, please contact the athletic office.

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