With the return of the fall, many kids and teens are returning to competitive sports teams. While participation in sporting activities can be an excellent way for kids to get exercise and develop important peer relationships and team-building skills, there can be some risks involved. Although sports-related concussions are not new, there now seems to be an increased awareness about the potential seriousness of such injuries. In the past, some athletes, coaches and parents may have underestimated the impact of “having your bell rung” while playing sports. As a result, athletes may have returned to play too early and put themselves at risk of further injury. It is important to recognize that although the general public use the term “concussion” to describe this type of injury, it is commonly referred to as a “mild traumatic brain injury” (MTBI) by health professionals in this area. As the brain is necessary for controlling all aspects of thinking, behaviour and emotions, it is crucial not to downplay the potential for a brain injury to affect a wide range of functions.
A concussion can occur after a direct hit to the head, but can also occur without direct contact to the head. This is because the brain is suspended in fluid inside the skull, and if your brain rapidly accelerates (such as in a fall or a body-check), it can hit against the skull and cause an injury. After an impact to the brain, you can lose consciousness but it is important to note that you could still have sustained a concussion even if you haven’t loss consciousness. For instance, if you have been dazed, confused or disoriented after a blow to the head, it is likely that your brain has been affected. Symptoms of a concussion can include some of the following:
The good news is that with proper identification and treatment of a concussion, the vast majority of people will recover with no long-term side-effects. However, returning to sports or other risky activities before you have completely recovered can increase the possibility to exacerbate some of the symptoms and also can put you at risk for sustaining a more serious injury. It is also important to note that the effects of concussions may be cumulative. That is, the more concussions you have may make you more susceptible to sustaining future concussions and / or to having more serious consequences of the injuries.
If you are interested in any further information about this topic, please feel free to call and arrange a consultation appointment. If your team or sports organization is interested in having Dr. Kincade present to your group, she would be happy to tailor a presentation to meet your particular interests. Finally, if you would like to consider having your team undergo baseline, pre-season neurocognitive or neuropsychological testing, this can be arranged by calling our office.