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Education

EDUCATION

Concussion is emerging as a major health issue affecting the lives of many people in the community. The real concern for the community is the long-term effect of concussions and the links to increased risk of mild cognitive and neurological impairments, dementia and movement disorders which have a huge social and economic impact on the community.

Thankfully the awareness of the significance of concussion continues to grow. While there is a more conservative approach to the treatment of concussions there is a lack of consistency and uncertainty in terms of the protocol for recognising and managing the injury and policies on when the time is right to return to play/competition following a concussion, particularly at the community sporting level.

While the focus is on sporting activities, concussion is an issue for the wider community; concussions occur everywhere – the workplace, at school or at home. A person injured during a sporting event or in a car accident is very likely to return to work, school or sport with the after effects of head trauma which may impact on their abilities to perform all tasks.

Currently the research is limited, but emerging evidence suggests that women suffer symptoms of concussion for longer periods than men. However, reasons for this are unknown and research is required to understand gender differences in response to concussion.

With adolescents, while it is known that children and adolescents take longer to recover from a concussion, (with return to play guidelines developed specifically for children and adolescents that focus on longer recovery times), new research is finding that children who play contact sports at an earlier age (under 12) are at risk of long-term neurological impairment, the research showing changes in brain structure that can affect neurological functions. Further research is required to understand why this happens, but we can no longer assume that ‘plastic’ changes in the young developing brain will overcome any concussive injury it receives.

Awareness of the significance of concussion continues to grow. While there is a more conservative approach to the treatment of concussions there is a lack of consistency and uncertainty in terms of the protocol for recognising and managing the injury and policies on when, following a concussion, the time is right to:

  • Return to play
  • Return to work
  • Return to school
  • Return to ‘life’

This is an important issue for all the community, highlighted by the lack of research and understanding of the impact of head trauma on women and adolescence.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A CONCUSSION?

Concussion symptoms differ with each person and with each injury, and they may not be noticeable for hours or days. Common symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty remembering or paying attention
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
  • Feeling irritable, more emotional, or “down”
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bothered by light or noise
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Sleep problems
  • Loss of consciousness

During recovery, exercising or activities that involve a lot of concentration (such as studying, working on the computer, or playing video games) may cause concussion symptoms to reappear or get worse.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK I HAVE A CONCUSSION?

Report It. Ignoring your symptoms and trying to “tough it out” often makes symptoms worse. Tell your coach/trainer/parent if you think you or one of your teammates may have a concussion. Don’t let anyone pressure you into continuing to practice or play with a concussion.

Get checked out. Only a health care professional can tell if you have a concussion and when it’s OK to return to play. Sports have injury timeouts and player substitutions so that you can get checked out and the team can perform at its best. The sooner you get checked out, the sooner you may be able to safely return to play.

Take care of your brain. A concussion can affect your ability to do schoolwork and other activities while the delicate combinations of chemicals within your brain cells re-balance.

Most athletes with a concussion get better and return to sports, but it is important to rest and give your brain time to heal. This process takes a lot of energy and is why it is important to conserve energy during recovery. A repeat concussion that occurs while your brain is still healing can cause long-term problems that may change your life forever.