OrthoWashington’s Concussion Program focuses on athletes participating in soccer, football, lacrosse and hockey and who typically do not have access to certified athletic trainers or team physicians.
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury and accounts for 9% of sports injuries. Too often, this injury goes unrecognized. It is a disturbance in brain function that occurs following either a blow to the head or as the result of a violent shaking of the head. In addition, younger athletes recover more slowly from a concussion and are more prone to recurrent concussions. A concussion is a metabolic rather than a structural injury so traditional neuro-diagnostic techniques like CT and MRI are often normal following a concussion. However, these tests are invaluable in ruling out more serious difficulties such ad intracerebral bleeds and skull fractures that may also occur with head trauma.
Concussions are brain injuries and should be treated as a serious health problem for student athletes. They require early identification, careful evaluation and specialized management before students can return to school or activity. In some instances, a concussion can interfere with a student’s ability to do school work or even attend school for a short period of time. We work with schools and teachers to help students manage that challenge.
It‘s important to note the following:
- Many athletes do not report concussions due to lack of knowledge, failure to understand the risks, fear of letting their team down, or determination to play through any challenge or pain.
- Concussions can be very difficult to fully recognize in the heat of a contest.
- High school athletes are slower to recover from concussions than older players. A concussion may not be fully healed, even after an athlete thinks that symptoms are gone.
- Players who return to contact before a concussion is fully healed run the risk of prolonging symptoms or even suffering catastrophic injury (Second Impact Syndrome).
Statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), estimates that as many as 3.8 million recreation and sports related concussions happen on a yearly basis in the United States. Of that, almost a full 50% of these concussions go unreported and untreated. Young athletes that return to active play too soon after concussion are at higher risk of additional brain injury. This can result in prolonged symptoms and possible permanent mental and physical disabilities for a young athlete.
What symptoms indicate that an athlete has experienced a concussion?
The diagnosis of cerebral concussion can be tricky under the best of circumstances. There may be no direct trauma to the head and a concussed athlete is often not rendered unconscious. The athlete may be unaware that he or she has been injured and may not show any obvious signs of concussion such as clumsiness, gross confusion or obvious amnesia. To complicate the situation, research shows that athletes at all levels of competition may minimize or hide symptoms in attempt to prevent their removal from the game, thus creating a potentially serious injury. The signs and symptoms of concussions are variable, but they affect 4 primary areas of the brain: thinking and remembering, physical, emotional/mood and sleep disturbances.
For diagnosis and treatment, contact an OrthoWashington sports medicine physician.