During summer, people dive into high-energy outdoor sports such as cycling, rock climbing, kayaking and zip lining. These sports are terrific and increase physical fitness but they also carry the risk of concussion. Eric Small, MD, Pediatric and Adult Sports Medicine specialist with Westchester Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine and our Medical Director of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, has specific expertise in concussions and has recently written a very informative blog on the subject, offering practical advice on how to help avoid this potentially catastrophic injury.
A concussion is any injury to the brain that disrupts normal brain function on a temporary basis. Now called mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), concussions are typically caused by a blow or jolt to the head that results in injury to the brain and neurologic dysfunction. Concussions can happen in any sport but more often in ones that involve physical contact, especially collisions (such as football, basketball, lacrosse and hockey).
With most concussions, the person is not knocked out or unconscious. The most common symptoms are:
- Headache (the most commonly reported concussion symptom)
- balance problems
- abnormal eye movements
- feeling mentally “foggy”
- difficulty concentrating and remembering
- confusion about recent events
- sleeping more or less than usual
- difficulty falling asleep
You can’t prevent all concussions but some can be avoided
It is vitally important to be well-informed about how to prevent this potentially serious head injury.
Wear a helmet
Strengthen your neck muscles
Play by the rules
There are still a lot of people—athletes and non-athletes—who simply do not understand how dangerous a concussion can be or that there is inherent risk involved in participating in most sports. The more you know, the more equipped you are to prevent this potentially serious head injury.
What to do if you have a concussion
1) Rest. If you have suffered a concussion, the best treatment is brain rest, which means taking a break from cognitive activity, physical activity and screen time.
2) Sit out for awhile. If your concussion was sustained during athletic activity, stop play. Your brain needs time to properly heal, so resting is key. Definitely do not resume play the same day.
3) Get extra sleep. Immediately after sustaining a concussion, you should get 10-14 hours of extra sleep for several nights.
4) Make sure you are monitored once you resume play. Athletes, especially children, should be closely monitored by parents, coaches and teammates upon resuming play. If you resume play too soon, you risk a greater chance of having a second concussion, which can compound the damage.
5) Avoid a repeat concussion. It is absolutely vital to avoid repeat concussions which can have devastating consequences, including brain swelling, permanent brain damage, long-term disabilities or even death. Do not return to normal activities if you still have symptoms of a concussion. Before returning to work, school or athletic competition, be sure to get a doctor’s clearance.
If you think you have sustained a concussion, contact an expert immediately
If you have experienced a concussion, or even if you suspect that you have, it’s extremely important to contact a specialist right away. Please make an appointment with Westchester Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine to see one of their orthopedic/sports medicine specialists who are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of concussions, as well as all other sports-related injuries and conditions.
Remember: Never ignore a head injury.
To read Dr. Small’s blog in full, click here.