In today’s sports, concussions are part of the game. Data collected from emergency department visits show:
- Roughly 300,000 concussions are reported every year.
- 62% increase (153,375 to 248,418) in nonfatal traumatic brain injuries between 2001 and 2009.
- 3.8 million reported and unreported sport and recreation related concussions occurring each year in the United States.¹
Why is there an increase in concussions?
The main reason is that student athletes and parents are better educated on concussions and are now reporting them more than ever. Education is key in minimizing the risk of concussions and ensures proper treatment after sustaining a concussion.
Even with the increase in reporting of concussions, it’s still estimated that at least 25% of concussion sufferers fail to get assessed by medical personnel. New Jersey law requires each school district, charter and non-public school, to develop a written policy describing the prevention and treatment of sports related concussion and other head injuries sustained by interscholastic student athletes.
What is a Concussion and What Causes it?
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that causes an alteration in mental status that may or may not involve loss of consciousness. Concussions are a “shaking” of the brain causing chemical changes as a result of damage to brain cells. Concussions are caused by a direct or indirect blow to the head. Examples of a direct blow are heading a soccer ball, helmet to helmet contact, and hitting your head on the ground are just a few examples of direct blows. An example of an indirect blow to the head would be when you take a hit to the body resulting in a whiplash type force on the head causing the brain to move back and forth in the skull.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion?
There are many different signs and symptoms of a concussion. If your child has one or more of the following symptoms after sustaining a direct or indirect blow to the head, they may have a concussion or a more serious injury. When an athlete shows ANY features of a concussion they should be evaluated by a physician or other licensed healthcare provider.²
Not all concussions present the same set of signs and symptoms from person to person. The cornerstone of concussion management is physical and cognitive rest until the acute symptoms resolve and then a graded program of exertion prior to medical clearance and return to play.2 Physical rest is important in the acute stages of a concussion. Returning to physical activity while still symptomatic may exacerbate the symptoms, or worse. If a concussion has not resolved and you return to soon you are more likely to sustain another concussion or possible catastrophic injury. Some concussions, depending on severity, require cognitive rest; such as school work, computer work, texting, and video games as examples. Concussions are a case by case assessment and treatment and should be seen as soon as possible to start an immediate treatment plan.
When Can I Go Back to Athletics?
If you have been diagnosed with a concussion you should not return to play (RTP) on the same day. There are data demonstrating that at the collegiate and high school levels, athletes allowed to RTP on the same day may demonstrate neuropsychological deficits post injury that may not be evident on the sidelines and are more likely to have delayed onset of symptoms.2 In the majority of most states, they have signed into law at the high school level, a graduated RTP protocol after an athlete has sustained a concussion. This protocol should only be started after given clearance by a physician trained in the treatment and management of concussions. Each step of the protocol should be separated by 24 hours and monitored by your schools Certified Athletic Trainer. If during these steps, symptoms of the concussion return you should stop with that step and wait 24 hours of being asymptomatic and drop back to the previous step. Below is a table of the RTP guidelines.2