Sports Medicine

Sports Concussion

A concussion is a brain injury. They are most often caused by minor trauma such as head to head injury in sports. They can occur in many different sporting activities and affect athletes at all levels of play from the playground to the pros.

Concussion in sports has become increasingly recognized. In some injuries only minor recoverable symptoms can occur while in other types of concussions severe lifelong symptoms can persist.

It is important not only for medical professionals to recognize the symptoms and impact of a concussion but also other teammates, coaches, parents and teachers to help injured athletes recover from their head injury.

Description

A concussion is caused when the brain or cerebrum sustains an injury.  It is often from sheer forces occurring from the head stopping or changing direction suddenly such as in an impact.  The brain is suspended in a chamber of fluid called CSF or cerebrospinal fluid to help reduce these injuries but, in some cases, it is not enough to protect the brain.

A concussion is a brain injury therefore brain function can be affected. The effects can vary from mild to severe independent of how severe the injury may have appeared at the time.  The effects on brain function can vary from balance and coordination, to thinking, decision making, memory, vision and speech.

Symptoms from a concussion typically resolve over 1-2 weeks. However, it is important that patients and athletes gradually return to normalcy as tolerated during this period rather than stay shuttered for two weeks.

Cause

A concussion is due to a sudden deceleration acceleration of the brain.  This causes it to collide with the hard skull and can cause shear injury to the brain matter.  This may be caused by either a direct blow or by a blow to the body that forces the head to quickly change direction or vectors.

Although some sports are riskier for concussions they can occur in any sport or recreational activity.  The most common sports associated with concussions are football, lacrosse, soccer, rugby, basketball, diving, skiing and snowboarding

Symptoms

Symptoms of a concussion can vary from loss of consciousness to a mild headache.  They can also occur immediately or be delayed onset after a few days from the original injury. The symptoms can be physical, emotional, or cognitive in nature.

  • Physical
    • Drowsiness
    • Headache
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Balance problems, dizziness
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Vision changes
  • Cognitive
    • Memory loss
    • Difficulty speaking and communicating
    • Confusion
  • Emotional
    • Depression
    • Irritability
    • Changes in sleep patterns

Examination

At your visit, Dr. Faucett will ask you about the injury and how it occurred. Important things to discuss are how severe the impact was, and what immediate symptoms occurred including if there was a loss of consciousness or if there was immediate memory loss. In addition, it is important to inform Dr. Faucett of any other concussions you have sustained. Dr. Faucett will also perform a neurological examination, which tests for balance, coordination, vision, hearing, and reflexes.

Imaging Tests

Usually imaging tests are not needed to confirm a diagnosis. In some cases when there are more severe symptoms or worsening symptoms, an imaging study will be performed.

CT scans and MRIs are occasionally used in specific situations and in most cases are unnecessary to diagnose and manage a concussion. If your examination identifies concerning symptoms or findings, such as trouble with your vision, Dr. Faucett will order imaging scans. Also, if your symptoms worsen over time or are not improving as expected, imaging studies are often used to look for other injuries and help guide treatment.

Neuropsychological Testing

Neuropsychological testing helps to measure the effects of concussion on an athlete’s cognitive capabilities. This kind of assessment is often done by proprietary computerized tests, or with a neuropsychologist.

Balance Assessment

Many athletes are unsteady on their feet for several days following a concussion. Performing a balance test is a helpful way to measure how well the brain is functioning.


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