Concussions may occur in any sport or activity when there is contact with the head. Approximately 10 percent of all athletes involved in a physical or contact sport suffer a concussion each season.
A concussion is a disturbance in brain function that occurs following a blow to either the head or neck. It happens when an athlete's brain is violently rocked back and forth inside the skull.
According to impacttest.com, as many as 300,000 sports-related concussions may occur each year in the United States. The majority occur in contact sports such as football and soccer. However, participants in any sporting or athletic activity may be at risk for a concussion. The reality is many concussions often go undiagnosed and untreated because signs and symptoms vary from athlete to athlete. Not all concussion symptoms are easy to identify.
Fortunately, most athletes fully recover from a concussion when given adequate time to heal. As each concussion is different, the length of time needed to recover will vary by athlete. Returning an athlete to action too soon increases the athlete's risk for a second (repeat) concussion—which could cause permanent brain injury or even death.
Signs and symptoms
Depending on the nature of the injury, concussion symptoms may range from very mild to severe. Most athletes who sustain a concussion do not lose consciousness.
Signs and symptoms often observed:
- Appears to be dazed or stunned.
- Is confused about assignment.
- Forgets plays.
- Unsure of game, score or opponent.
- Moves clumsily.
- Answers questions slowly.
- Loses consciousness (even briefly).
- Shows behavior or personality changes.
- Forgets events prior to the impact.
- Forgets events after the impact.
Signs and symptoms reported by the athlete:
- Nausea (upset stomach).
- Balance problems or dizziness.
- Double or fuzzy vision.
- Sensitivity to light or noise.
- Feeling sluggish.
- Feeling "foggy."
- Changes in sleep pattern.
- Concentration or memory problems.
If an athlete suffers a blow to the head or neck during practice, competition or other event, parents and coaches should monitor the athlete for any signs or symptoms of concussion. Symptoms may not be immediately apparent. If symptoms are present, contact your physician immediately. An athlete should not return to athletic activities until cleared by a physician.
Each year, athletic trainers at King's Daughters' Health provide preseason baseline concussion testing for student athletes at several local high schools. Using an athlete's baseline results, ImPACT testing provides ATCs and physicians with an opportunity to evaluate the athlete individually if a possible concussion is suspected during a practice or game. If an athlete is determined to be concussed, physicians and ATCs use a follow-up ImPACT test to help determine whether/when an athlete may safely return to athletic activities.
ImPACT is user-friendly software that provides a sports medicine physician or clinician with detailed information that helps take the guesswork out of concussion management and return-to-play decisions. Using a variety of scientifically validated neurocognitive tests of memory, reaction time and processing speed, ImPACT provides specific information about the severity of injury and a standard for evaluating recovery from injury.
For more specific information, visit impacttest.com.
The ImPACT approach has been found to be extremely sensitive and one of the most useful methods for determining when an athlete has recovered sufficiently in order to safely return to athletic competition. One of the key factors in determining an athlete's recovery curve is to compare the athlete's post-concussive performance and symptoms to their baseline (pre-concussion) levels. This is the best method for evaluating individual differences and why we recommend that athletes complete their baseline ImPACT exam prior to competition.