May 13, 2011

Prevent and Treat Concussions Properly

I am sure most of you have heard about concussions, and someone you know might have had a concussion in the past. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) is promoting concussion awareness and proper response. Concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Each year traumatic brain injuries cause many deaths and disabilities. Approximately 1.7 million people die, are hospitalized, or are seen in an emergency department for a traumatic brain injury annually. Almost half a million emergency department visits for TBI that occur each year are among children aged 0 to 14 years.

Fast Facts
•A concussion is a brain injury and all are serious.
•Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness.
•Recognition and proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or even death.

What is a Concussion?
According to the CDC "A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth. Even a “ding,” “getting your bell rung,” or what seems to be mild bump or blow to the head can be serious." This sudden movement can literally cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain. What you might not know is that these chemical changes make the brain more vulnerable to further injury. During this window of vulnerability the brain is more sensitive to any increased stress or injury, until it fully recovers.

Why is this important? Children and teens are more likely to get a concussion or TBI and take longer to recover than adults.

If someone has a concussion, and they have another head injury while the brain still is recovering, the results can be disasterous. I have heard about teen athletes who practically begged to play again soon after a head injury. Then a relatively mild head injury resulted in death!

Concussions can occur in any sport or recreation activity. So, all coaches, parents, and athletes need to learn concussion signs and symptoms and what to do if a concussion occurs.

How Can I Recognize a Possible Concussion?
To help recognize a concussion, you should watch for the following two things among your athletes:
•A forceful bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body that results in rapid movement of the head.
AND
•Any change in the athlete’s behavior, thinking, or physical functioning.

Signs Observed by Coaching Staff
Appears dazed or stunned
Is confused about assignment or position
Forgets an instruction
Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
Moves clumsily
Answers questions slowly
Loses consciousness (even briefly)
Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes
Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall
Can’t recall events after hit or fall

Symptoms Reported by Athlete
Headache or “pressure” in head
Nausea or vomiting
Balance problems or dizziness
Double or blurry vision
Sensitivity to light
Sensitivity to noise
Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
Concentration or memory problems
Confusion
Does not “feel right” or is “feeling down”

It’s important for parents, athletes, and coaches to know about concussion. So what should you do if you think your teen has a concussion? CDC developed the following 4-step Heads Up Action Plan to help you protect your child or teen if you suspect they have a concussion:

1. Keep your teen out of play. If your child or teen has a concussion, her/his brain needs time to heal. Don’t let your child or teen return to play the day of the injury and until a health care professional, experienced in evaluating for concussion, says he or she is symptom-free and it’s OK to return to play. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first—usually within a short period of time (hours, days, or weeks)—can slow recovery or increase the likelihood of having long-term problems. In rare cases, repeat concussions can result in edema (brain swelling), permanent brain damage, and even death.
2. Seek medical attention right away. A health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussion will be able to decide how serious the concussion is and when it is safe for your child or teen to return to sports.
3. Teach your child or teen that it’s not smart to play with a concussion. Rest is key after a concussion. Sometimes athletes wrongly believe that it shows strength and courage to play injured. Discourage others from pressuring injured athletes to play. Don’t let your child or teen convince you that s/he’s “just fine.”
4. Tell all of your child or teen’s coaches and the school nurse about ANY concussion. Coaches, school nurses, and other school staff should know if your child or teen has ever had a concussion. Your child or teen may need to limit activities while s/he is recovering from a concussion. Things such as studying, driving, working on a computer, playing video games, or exercising may cause concussion symptoms to reappear or get worse. Talk to your health care professional, as well as your child or teen’s coaches, school nurse, and teachers. If needed, they can help adjust your child or teen’s school activities during her/his recovery.

I know this is a lot of information, but the main thing is to get medical treatment for a concussion and don't let the kids play sports until the doctor releases them and all symptoms have resolved. This info is from the CDC.

More info: http://www.cdc.gov/concussion
Join the Facebook conversation: http://www.facebook.com/cdcheadsup

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