Concussion Program FAQs

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head or to the body with "impulsive force" transmitted to the head. This “invisible” injury disrupts the brain’s normal physiology which can affect mental stamina and function, causing the brain to work longer and harder to complete even simple tasks.

Must you have a loss of consciousness to suffer a concussion?
No, loss of consciousness occurs in only 10 percent of concussions.

What are the signs and symptoms that an athlete has suffered a concussion on the playing field?
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Vision changes
  • Balance problems
  • Personality changes
  • Anterograde amnesia - difficulty remembering events after the injury.
  • Retrograde amnesia - difficulty remember events before the injury 
Some signs that may be observed by those who spend time with the athlete include appearing dazed or stunned; answering questions slowly; confusion about assignments or position played; forgetting instructions, and moving clumsily.

How are concussions diagnosed?
A concussion is diagnosed based on symptoms and physical exam. You cannot see a concussion on imaging such as a CT scan or MRI

How are concussions treated?
Initial treatment for a concussion is both cognitive and physical rest.  Patients under cognitive rest cannot take part in demanding activities such as going to school, homework, reading, using a computer, watching TV or playing video games, texting, or listening to loud music. As the symptoms improve they may begin to gradually resume cognitive activities. Please see the return to learn plan for further details .

How long does it take to recover from a concussion?
Eighty percent of high school athletes will recover in three weeks. However, 20 percent will take more than a month to recover.

What interventions should be undertaken if symptoms do not resolve in one month?
If an athlete has not recovered in a month and is complaining of headaches, eye strain, blurry vision, dizziness, or balance problems, a doctor will prescribe vestibular ocular rehabilitation with a physical therapist trained in concussion rehab. If the headaches are severe, a doctor will recommend that the patient see a neurologist for medication management. 

What should a coach do if an athlete sustains a possible concussion?
Remove the athlete from play. They should not be allowed to return to any physical activity that day even if he/she says the symptoms have resolved. Always err on the side of caution if you are not sure if an athlete has sustained a concussion. Remember when in doubt, sit them out!
Monitor for worsening signs and symptoms. If any of the following DANGER SIGNS occur the individual should be sent to a hospital Emergency Department by ambulance.
  • Unequal pupils
  • Convulsions
  • Severe or increased headache
  • Unusual/increased drowsiness
  • Projectile or repeated vomiting
  • Severe personality changes
  • Weakness in either arm(s) or leg(s)
  • Numbness in the face/extremities
  • Bleeding/clear fluid from the ear/nose
  • Unusual stiffness in the neck area
Notify the athletes parent/guardian of the concussion or suspected concussion. Instruct them to have their child evaluated by a medical professional educated in concussion evaluation and treatment.
Do not allow the athlete to return to play without a note from a medical professional clearing him/her to begin participating in athletics. If the athlete begins, or is still complaining of symptoms after resuming play, he/she should be taken out of play until seen again by his/her doctor.

When should an athlete return to play?
An athlete should not return to play until they are symptom-free at school doing a full workload without accommodations.  He/She should complete the graduated return-to-play protocol.

How can you help  prevent athletes from getting a concussion?
There are a few things that can be done to decrease the likelihood that athletes will suffer a concussion.
Encourage sportsmanship and instill in athletes the need to follow the rules
Teach good technique
Ensure that your athletes wear properly fitting equipment. The equipment should be checked and maintained regularly. 

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