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Dec 01

Recognizing and Treating a Concussion

A concussion is an injury to the brain’s cells that causes a disturbance in normal brain function. Concussion can be caused by either getting hit directly on the head or by a hit to another part of the body that causes the head to accelerate forward or backward (like whiplash).

Most athletes who experience concussion will exhibit any one of multiple symptoms.

Headache is the most common symptom, however not all athletes will experience concussion in the same way. So, while one athlete may have a headache, another may not.

Other signs and symptoms can include being nauseous, having poor balance or coordination, being dizzy, and suffering from memory loss. Headaches may linger, but so can not-so-obvious symptoms. These can include sensitivity to light or noise, emotional changes, sleep disturbances and personality changes. Often, the signs and symptoms of a concussion are not evident until several minutes to hours later. The severity of the symptoms will vary as will their duration.

Signs and symptoms generally show up soon after the injury. However, you may not know how serious the injury is at first and some symptoms may not show up for hours or days. For example, in the first few minutes the effected child, teen or adult might be a little confused or a bit dazed, but an hour later they might not be able to remember how he or she got hurt.

Do not try to judge the severity of the injury yourself. Only a health care provider should assess a young athlete for a possible concussion. After you remove a young athlete with a possible concussion from practice or play, the decision about return to practice or play is a medical decision that should be made by a health care provider.

The post injury sideline assessment must be completed by a person trained in concussion recognition and treatment. Panno Medical provides sideline assessment for schools and minor sports associations.

If a concussion is suspected the athlete should be “immediately” removed from play. In most cases once removed from play, the player will NOT return to full activity for a minimum of one week. Immediate, emergency professional consultation may be required depending on the severity of the injury.

When a Panno Medical care provider suspects a concussion has occurred, an immediate sideline assessment is provided, including:

  • The post injury sideline assessment must be completed by a person trained in concussion recognition and treatment.
  • If a concussion is suspected the athlete should be “immediately” removed from play. In most cases once removed from play, the player will NOT return to full activity for a minimum of one week.
  • Immediate, emergency professional consultation may be required depending on the severity of the injury.
  • Athlete (and parent) instructed to “shut down” until symptom free, Step 1 of Return to Play protocol.

Six Step Return to Play Protocol

  • Step 1: No activity, only complete mental and physical rest. Proceed to step 2 only when all symptoms are gone. This includes avoiding both mental and physical stress.
  • Step 2: Light aerobic exercise, such as walking or stationary cycling.
  • Monitor for symptoms and signs. No resistance training or weight lifting.
  • Step 3: Sport specific activities and training (e.g. skating).
  • Step 4: Drills without body contact. May add light resistance training and progress to heavier weights. The time needed to progress from non-contact to contact exercise will vary with the severity of the concussion and the player.
  • Only go to step 5 after medical clearance. (Reassessment and note)
  • Step 5: Begin drills with body contact.
  • Step 6: Game play. (The earliest a concussed athlete should return to play is one week).