While concussions can strike anyone, they tend to be especially prevalent among athletes, both high school and college-aged, due to the somewhat aggressive nature of the activity, contact involved, and the susceptibility of youth to head injuries.
The Sports Connection
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, sports and recreational activities contribute to about 21% of all traumatic brain injuries among American children and adolescents, ages 5 to 18. Concussions are typically categorized as a subset of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), generally caused by low-velocity injuries resulting in “brain shaking,” and often result in clinical symptoms not necessarily related to a pathological injury.
These can manifest during any physical contact, though are commonly seen as a result of sports including boxing, cheerleading, cycling, football, horseback riding, snow skiing/snowboarding, ice hockey, martial arts, and soccer.
Oftentimes, violent collisions may result in concussion symptoms, characterized by post-traumatic impairment of neural function, alteration of consciousness, and possible disturbances to vision or equilibrium. More mild signs can include headache, dizziness, nausea, and alteration to memory. These may be short- or long-term, and can subside and reappear over time, depending on the patient.
Myths & Medical Care
In recent years, added attention has been brought to this condition by the medical community, subsequently refuting previously held assumptions that concussions are primarily confined to football players. Instances of injury in the female soccer and basketball communities in high school are quite prevalent, as are those in men’s wrestling and ice hockey on the collegiate level.
When a trauma occurs, the brain—which is suspended in fluid—knocks against the skull, causing the tissue to stretch or twist. The subsequent damage which can result sets off a series of biochemical changes in the brain. Though it was commonly thought concussions regularly resulted in a loss of consciousness, this is not so; blackout occurs in less than 10% of cases.
Triggers include sudden stops, head-to-head collisions, and whiplash. Later injuries can be more severe, and may stem from less force than the initial one. Though the inclination may be to immediately visit the ER, it’s beneficial to see your primary care physician initially, as soon as any red flags present. CT scans will not necessarily indicate concussion, and may expose children to unnecessary radiation in the process.
On average, recovery ranges from one to two weeks, given appropriate rest and a gradual return to physical and cognitive activity. Supplemental treatments may include physical therapy to treat neck pain, speech therapy for cognitive deficits, and sleep therapy for sleep deficits.
For further information on concussions, symptoms, and the recovery process, contact the Northport Wellness Center.