Do You Understand The Signs and Symptoms of A Concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury.

Recognition and proper management of concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or even death.


WHAT IS A CONCUSSION?

A concussion is an injury that changes how the cells in the brain normally work. A concussion is caused by a blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull. Even a "ding," "Getting your bell rung," or what seems to be a mild bump or blow to the head can be serious. Concussions can also result from a fall or from players colliding with each other or with obstacles such as a goalpost.

The potential for concussions is the greatest in athletic environments where collisions are common. Concussion can occur, however, in any organized or unorganized sport or recreational activity. As many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year.


RECOGNIZING A POSSIBLE CONCUSSION

To help recognize a concussion, you should watch for the following two things among your athletes:

  1. A forceful blow to the head or body that results in rapid movement of the head
  2. Any change in an athlete’s behavior, thinking, or physical functioning.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - SIGNS OBSERVED BY COACHING STAFF

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Is confused about assignment
  • Forgets sports plays
  • Is unsure of game, score or opponent
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly) or groggy
  • Shows behavior or personality
  • Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall

SYMPTOMS REPORTED BY ATHLETE

  • Headache or "pressure" in head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy
  • Concentration or memory problems changes
  • Confusion
  • Does not "feel right"

Athletes who experience any of these signs or symptoms after a bump or blow to the head should be kept from play until given permission to return to play by a health care professional with experience in evaluating for a concussion. Signs and symptoms of concussion can last several minutes, days, weeks, months, or even longer in some cases.


PREVENTION

As a coach, you can play a key role in preventing concussions and responding to them properly when they occur. Here are some steps you can take to ensure the best outcome for your athletes and the team:

  • Educate athletes and parents about concussions. Talk with athletes and their parents about the dangers and potential long-term consequences of concussion. Explain your concerns about concussion and your expectations of safe play to athletes, parents, and assistant coaches. Pass out the concussion fact sheets for athletes and for parents at the beginning of the season and again if concussion occurs.
  • Insist that safety comes first. Teach athletes safe playing techniques and encourage them to follow the rules of play. Encourage athletes to practice good sportsmanship at all times.
  • Teach athletes and parents that it’s not smart to play with a concussion. Sometimes players and parents wrongly believe that it shows strength and courage to play injured. Discourage others from pressuring injured athletes to play. Don’t let athletes persuade you that they’re "just fine" after they have sustained any bump or blow to the head. Ask if players have ever had a concussion.
  • Prevent long-term problems. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first — usually within a short period of time (hours, days or weeks) — can slow recovery or increase the likelihood of having long-term problems. In rare cases, repeat concussions can result in brain damage and even death. This more serious condition is called second-impact syndrome. Keep athletes with known or suspected concussion from play until they have been evaluated and given permission to return to play by a health care professional with experience in evaluating for concussion. Remind your athletes: "It’s better to miss one game than the whole season."
  • Make sure athletes wear the right protective equipment for their activity. Protective equipment should fit properly, be well-maintained and be worn consistently and correctly.

ACTION PLAN

What should a coach do when a concussion is suspected?

  1. Remove the athlete from play. Look for the signs and symptoms of a concussion if your athlete has experienced a bump or blow to the head. Athletes who experience signs or symptoms of concussion should not be allowed to return to play. When in doubt, keep the athlete out of play.

  2. Ensure that the athlete is evaluated right away by an appropriate health care professional. Do not try to judge the severity of the injury yourself. Health care professionals have a number of methods that they can use to assess the severity of concussions. As a coach, recording the following information can help health care professionals in assessing the athlete after the injury:
    • Cause of the injury and force of the hit or blow to the head
    • Any loss of consciousness (passed out/knocked out) and if so, for how long
    • Any memory loss immediately following the injury
    • Any seizures immediately following the injury
    • Numbers of previous concussions (if any)
  3. Inform the athlete’s parents or guardians about the possible concussion and give them the fact sheet on concussion. Make sure they know that the athlete should be seen by a health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussion.

  4. Allow the athlete to return to the play only with permission from a health care professional with experience in evaluating for a concussion.

  5. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first can slow recovery or increase the likelihood of having long-term problems and the rare second impact syndrome by delaying the athlete’s return to the activity until the player receives appropriate medical evaluation and approval for return to play.