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To Your Health: Concussion

by Jessica Stumbo, MD, ULP Family Medicine last modified Jun 20, 2012 09:41 AM

A concussion is a brain injury and should be taken seriously. In an effort to promote concussion awareness and protect athletes, a concussion law was passed in Kentucky on April 11.

To Your Health: Concussion

Jessica Stumbo

The law has these provisions:

  • Interscholastic athletes, parents and coaches receive education regarding concussions.
  • If an athlete is suspected of having a concussion, he or she must be removed from play immediately.
  • To return to play following a concussion, athletes must be cleared by a physician.

This law has broad implications. Coaches will be required to take a more active role in the safety of the athletes. Parents will be more equipped to recognize when their child may have suffered a concussion and have the confidence to ask that he or she be removed from play. Athletes will be expected to monitor themselves and teammates to keep everyone safe — even if it means missing a game, a practice or even the season. For physicians, it means staying current on concussion management in order to guide a safe return to play.

A concussion does not have to include a loss of consciousness. The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be broken down into four categories:

  • Cognitive (issues with thinking and memory): trouble concentrating, feeling slowed down, feeling in a “fog,” forgetfulness and memory loss
  • Emotional: irritability, sadness, feeling anxious or overly emotional
  • Physical: headache, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, loss of balance, sensitivity to bright light and loud noises
  • Sleep disturbances: sleeping too much, trouble falling asleep

Warning signs that should prompt immediate medical attention:

  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Worsening headache
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty awakening from sleep
  • Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination
  • Getting more and more confused, restless or agitated
  • Seizures
  • Any worsening or progression of symptoms

Concussion management requires an individualized plan as each person recovers at a different speed. Initially, physicians will advise the athlete to undergo both physical and cognitive rest so the brain can recover. Once the athlete is totally without symptoms, he or she will slowly be returned to sports in a stepwise approach.

Resources:

  • www.cdc.gov/concussion; contains a lot of free educational resources
  • www.ncaa.org; click on Health and Safety link then concussions link
  • 3rd International Conference on Concussion in Sports Consensus Statement available through the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, May 2009, or available free on the web

Editor’s Note: UofL Today reprints To Your health from the “ULP Insider” newsletter. Read the entire June issue (opens as a PDF document).

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