Participating in sports is a great way to stay active and in some sports, a level of physical contact is required. However, this physical contact can sometimes result in injury. Although we hope that you are able to play safely, concussions are a common traumatic brain injury that can occur in high-contact sports. This injury can be serious, and it’s important to know what steps you should take in the event that you suspect that you or someone you know has suffered a concussion.
Here are five things you should know about concussions:
- A concussion may be caused by a direct blow to the head, face, neck, or impact elsewhere on the body that transmits force to the head.1
- There are multiple ways to get a concussion such as from falling, or a car or bike accident. When it comes to physical activity, concussions have a greater risk of occurring in sports that involve body contact, collisions, and/or moving at high speeds.
- A concussion can be difficult to diagnose because clinical symptoms and signs can change and may evolve over time. The diagnosis of a concussion is based on the assessment of a range of symptoms (i.e., headache, difficulty concentrating, feeling like being in a fog, or emotional lability), signs (i.e., loss of consciousness or balance disturbance), cognitive impairment (i.e., confusion or slowed reaction times) and neurobehavioural changes, such as irritability.
- Recovery: When properly managed, 80–90% of concussions resolve in a short period of about 7–10 days, although the recovery time frame may be longer in children and adolescents.1
- Often, the most important factor in concussion management is physical and cognitive rest until the symptoms resolve. From there, a step-by-step guideline is followed that slowly increases physical and cognitive exertion before returning to one’s regular active lifestyle.1 However, emerging evidence has suggested that starting aerobic exercise sooner rather than later after a diagnosed concussion contributes to a faster recovery and return to sport, school and work.2
“Historically, concussion management was based on a simple recipe of rest until your symptoms go away. However, what we have realized is that in many people symptoms take time to resolve and prolonged periods of rest may have a negative impact because rest was interpreted as no activity in sport, school, work, screen and social activities,” said Dr.Michael Hutchison, director of the concussion program at the MacIntosh clinic and co-author of the study. “We still believe that a brief reduction in activity from normal levels is beneficial,” he said. “However, we recommend maintaining activity levels that do not exacerbate symptoms in the acute period.”
Many chiropractors with first responder training commonly work with other healthcare professionals to support sports teams. Part of their role is to manage cases of suspected concussions and refer for additional medical attention as needed. Chiropractors can also help to co-manage the recovery and return to play of athletes.
If at any point you believe someone may have a concussion, contact medical staff immediately to assess the situation. Concussions should never be taken as a light injury and must be attended to. For more information on athlete-related concussions, take a look at our blog post on Returning to Sports after a Concussion.
- McCrory P, Meeuwisse WH, Aubry M, et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport—the 4th international conference on concussion in sport held in Zurich, November 2012. Br J Sports Med. 2013; 47(5): 250-8. doi: 1136/bjsports-2013-092313.
- Lawrence DW, Richards D, Comper P, Hutchison MG. Earlier time to aerobic exercise is associated with faster recovery following acute sport concussion. PLoS One. 2018 Apr 18;13(4):e0196062. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0196062. eCollection 2018. PubMed PMID: 29668716; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5905975.)