Concussion: What Can Happen?
Concussion is a hot topic in many sporting codes over recent years. What was once thought of as a simple bump to the head is now attracting careful scrutiny and for good reason. We now know that symptoms of concussion are not always easy to recognise but they can be life changing. Long term trouble with memory, seizures, personality changes such as irritability and aggression, chronic headaches, fatigue and sleep disturbances are some of the many symptoms that may be a consequence. Repeated concussions may lead to longer recovery time and permanent disabilities. In 2017 the first law suits were launched against sporting bodies for not protecting their players adequately or disclosing the risks to players of repeated concussions.
As a physio who sits court side for state league netball with no other medical staff alongside, I feel I have a huge responsibility to the players to make the right decision about if a player should play on. Concussion in netball is more common than you would think. There are a lot of elbows to the head, a lot of crashes to the floor. The head injury is often a secondary issue as you are trying to stem bleeding, assess if teeth are loose or if there may be facial fractures. I need to remember to go through the concussion tests as well as patching up the more obvious injury.
As a Parent, What Do I Need To Know?
So what about the firstaider at the local footy match? Some have some medical knowledge but many will not be trained to recognise the symptoms. My advice to you is firstly get some training on concussion. In the mean time:
“If they are conscious but can’t answer your questions coherently when they are lying on the ground, stop the match, leave them in the position they are in as long as they are breathing well. Call an ambulance and try and keep them still. If they are talking and walking around and can answer basic questions like what day it is, what team they are playing, who scored the last goal, who won last week, then escort them off field and let them rest. If you have no training in how to assess for a concussion leave them off.”
Athletes with suspected concussion should:
- See a Doctor as soon as possible
- Not be left alone for at least the first 1-2 hours. They should be sent home with a responsible adult.
- Not drink alcohol until symptoms have fully resolved
- Not use recreational drugs. Check with the pharmacy about prescription drugs
- Not drive a motor vehicle until cleared to do so by a medical practitioner.
Symptoms that may develop after a blow to the head include but are not limited to:
- Pressure in head
- Balance problems
- Nausea or vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to noise
- Fatigue and low energy
- More emotional than normal
- More irritable
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty remembering
- Feeling like in a fog
If any of these symptoms develop, the athlete needs to seek medical advice before returning to playing or training to guide them through their recovery. Returning to training too early will exacerbate the symptoms, increase the recovery time and place the athlete at risk of longer term issues.
*Disclaimer: The intent of this post is to raise awareness of concussion. It is not a guide as to how to manage concussion. Each person is different and if you have signs of concussion, see your sports doctor for advice on management before returning to sport.
Post by Physiotherapist Sandy Woolman May 2018
Concussion Policy 2018 Sports Medicine Australia Vol 1.0 https://sma.org.au/sma-site-content/uploads/2018/03/Concussion-Policy-2018.pdfConcussion Sports Medicine Australia
Concussion Recognition Tool 5 2017 http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/bjsports/early/2017/04/26/bjsports-2017-097508CRT5.full.pdf