Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sports concussions: use your head

Scrapes and scabs, bruises and blisters. Parents rarely see their little athletes leaving the playing field unscathed. 

But if your youngster gets bonked on the head, it might be more serious than you think.

“Parents need to be mindful of the long-term effects that repetitive concussions can have,” said Dr. Damond Blueitt, an an orthopedist that specializes in non-operative sports medicine on the medical staff at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. “A child may appear symptom-free after a week or two and parents think that it’s okay to gradually work them back into physical activity, but may not realize they could still be dealing with symptoms such as an inability to focus.”

Yesterday the American Academy of Neurology advised  that athletes of all ages who are suspected of suffering a concussion should be evaluated by a specialist before they return to sports.

“A lot of athletes have prolonged symptoms because of mismanagement with concussions,” Blueitt said. “It is imperative that they see someone who specializes in and who is up to date on current medicine regarding how the injury should be treated.”

Repetitive concussion, if not treated properly, can lead to early signs of Alzheimer-like symptoms as well as what some doctors refer to as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Blueitt said. (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a degenerative disease similar to dementia, with symptoms like memory loss and confusion.) It is very important for parents to understand that a concussion isn’t  just a headache -- it is an actual injury to the brain with a combination of symptoms. The healing rate for every athlete will be different.

“All cases are different, some athletes may benefit from a week or two of rest and be ready to return to the playing field whereas some may need more time to recover,” he said. “Determining the length of time needed for each individual is usually determined by neuro-cognitive testing and if they are not been seen by a concussion specialist they may not be receiving this type of testing.”

Texas Health’s Ben Hogan Sports Medicine program offers this type of testing to help determine when your little one can get back in the game. If he or she does suffer a head injury, symptoms to look out for include:
•    headache;
•    nausea or vomiting;
•    balance problems or dizziness;
•    double or fuzzy vision;
•    sensitivity to light or noise;
•    sluggishness;
•    changes in sleep pattern;
•    concentration or memory problems;
•    light-headedness;
•    fatigue; and
•    confusion.

Sports staff and coaches should watch for players that:
•    appear to be dazed or stunned;
•    are unsure of game score or opponent;
•    lack coordination;
•    exhibit poor reaction time;
•    lose consciousness (even temporarily);
•    show behavior, mood or personality changes;
•    forget events prior to injury (retrograde);
•    have unequal or dilated pupils; and
•    show blood or clear fluid coming from nose or ears.

An athlete should not return to play until he or she is evaluated by a medical professional and is symptom-free at rest and with exertion.

Bottom line: concussions are a big deal. Make sure they're treated properly.

1 comment:

  1. Being a mom of 5 athletic kids I was told about a great resource years ago and I just checked--it is the MomsTeam.com Concussion safety channel.It is sort of buried in their health and safety channel but is very extensive and geared to moms. Paula