Concussion in sport – what to look out for

Unlike a broken bone, a concussion can often have none or very minimal obvious symptoms

If you follow the AFL or any other major contact sport, you’ll know that concussion is a big topic that circulates the media and in research. We are only just beginning to scratch the surface on the profound importance protecting the brain has on the health and wellbeing of an individuals. The effects that a concussion can have on an individual can be long-lasting, particularly when not managed correctly.

So, what is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of acute, traumatic brain injury, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth (like a whiplash type action). These sudden forces can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells.

Here are some obvious signs and symptoms extracted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to look out for if you believe you or someone you know has sustained a concussion. These symptoms can range from mild to more severe depending on the injury.

What can I do if I am showing signs of concussion:

  • See a doctor for a through assessment (even if you feel reasonably fine, this is a very sensible thing to do as concussion symptoms can often go unrecognised by an individual)
  • REST – both physically and mentally
  • Avoid screen time
  • Limit activities that require a lot of brain capacity and activity
  • Your doctor may recommend some imaging of the brain
  • If this is your first concussion and symptoms are mild you may only need to rest for 1-2 days. If you have had multiple concussions you will likely need to rest for a lot longer.

It is important to know that everyone and every concussion is different so each management plan also needs to be individual to your signs and symptoms.

Unfortunately there is no magic cure or pill to rid ourselves of post concussion symptoms (at least not yet). Whether you have had your first or tenth concussion we should not have any great expectations on how quickly we can return to play or even everyday activities. Each concussion needs to be taken seriously and treated on its own merit. Give it time, see a doctor and avoid progressing your rehabilitation too quickly.

Interesting concussion research

If you are a big nerd like our osteopath Dr James Clark , you may be interested in reading about some of the recent research into concussion.

There has been a lot of talk and use of headgear in contact sports as a preventative measure to concussions. Interestingly, a study conducted by Naunheim et al. (2003) looked into the use of headgear in soccer and found that there was no difference in the rate of soccer-related concussions between the headgear group and non headgear group. Interestingly, 35% of the concussions sustained in this study came through head contact with the ball and 55% of concussions were sustained through contact with another player. Whilst soccer may not be considered to be a huge contact sport, these results can likely be extrapolated across other contact sports.

Another very interesting study aimed to investigate the relationship between concussions and future ACL and/or lateral ankle injury. This systematic review and meta-analysis by Chou et al., (2023) found that after a concussion, issues such as disturbed balance, slower reaction times and impaired cognitive function lead to an increase in musculoskeletal injuries. This is very important research for healthcare practitioners to consider when assessing return to play capabilities for their athletic patients.

The best treatment for post concussion individuals is still not clear and a lot of research in the area still needs to be carried out. It seems that a period of physical and mental rest is certainly needed to allow the tissues of the brain to heal and recover. There are also a lot of psychological factors that can slow down a patient’s return to play (RTP) post concussion. A study by McAllister et. al.,(2023) found that psychological factors such as fear of recurrent concussions, RTS, losing playing status, depression, anxiety, perceived stress and mood disturbances were all factors that influenced return to sport post concussion.”

If you have any questions about sporting injuries (such as concussion), please give the clinic a call on (03) 9773 8085. Alternatively, click here to book an appointment online.

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This blog post is an educational tool only.  It is not a replacement for medical advice from a registered and qualified doctor or health professional.

Phone: (03) 9773 8085

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