Concussion prevention has been in the media a lot lately as medical researchers reveal more and more proof of the lasting neurological damage to the brains of former, and even some current, athletes. That has put an increased awareness of the need for proper equipment for players from youth sports on up, as well as mandated safety protocols to be immediately initiated after a potential concussive incident.
Here in Texas, football and soccer top the list of popular concussion-prone sports, but many others, including baseball, hockey, wrestling, volleyball, and diving also place high. Locally, cycling is a popular recreational hobby that has many Austinites gearing up for April’s MS 150 bike ride from Houston to ATX. The ever-growing number of rides presents more safety concerns each year.
While participation in youth sports can be a very valuable part of a child’s life and continuing to be physically active in organized recreational sports as we age can be extremely beneficial, we now know that participation can also have potentially serious, long-term consequences. Therefore, it’s very important that we take precautions to minimize the risk of injury.
One of the most basic forms of concussion prevention is having and wearing the proper protective gear at all times. Another is ensuring players get proper conditioning and training on procedures for all contact moves, as well as ways to defend themselves against potential harm.
In addition, there are steps you can take prior to participating in sporting activities or letting your kids participate in them, to help you be more proactive in protecting yourself from brain injury.
Relying solely on coaches, student trainers, or fellow players to know enough about concussion prevention and diagnosis, or assuming you or your child’s best interests will be their top priority, could be a mistake. Most have the very best intentions but, your own knowledge base could be invaluable.
A concussion is a traumatic injury to the brain that can alter mental status or cause other symptoms, including difficulty with coordination, concentration and/or communication. Other symptoms include a headache, vomiting or nausea, memory loss, fatigue and hypersensitivity to light, sound, and stress.
Contrary to popular belief, a person does not have to lose consciousness to have a concussion. Significant brain injuries can occur without losing consciousness at all, and when the victim only has a few of the aforementioned symptoms.
In addition, once someone has had a concussion they are more likely to have another, so the player returning to the field, bike or diving board after healing will have a higher risk than before and must be even more vigilant about pursuing protective measures. Going back to play before healing is complete is also very dangerous. When in doubt, sit it out.
Baseline testing collects data on an athlete’s cognitive and physical abilities prior to suffering a concussion. It measures multiple areas of brain function, including memory, problem-solving, reaction times, and brain processing speeds to provide a snapshot of how one’s brain functions in normal, everyday circumstances before an injury occurs. Like other baseline tests, it provides an invaluable comparison tool of specific damage, or lack of, after a head injury should occur.
In addition, neurocognitive testing in the form of SAC (standardized assessment of concussion) can be another helpful tool in both properly diagnosing a concussion, as well as determining if the brain has completely healed after symptoms are gone.
If you or any of your family members play contact sports or participate in other activities where a head injury is a possibility, consider us a resource for these valuable testing tools.