When in Doubt, Sit Them Out
by Neal Blakely, APEX Physical Therapy, March, 2011

Back in the day, when an athlete took a brutal hit to the head, the coach asked: Can you say your name? Are you conscious? Not throwing up? All good. Get back on the field already.

Today, the mantra is: When in doubt, sit them out.

Good thing.  In the U.S., there are more than 1.6 million sport-related concussions every year. More than eight states have passed concussion-specific legislation to protect young athletes. Even the MLS has created a new Concussion Program Comittee, chaired by a neuropsychologist, to help guide concussion management.

Bottom line: a concussion is a brain injury.  It occurs when the brain is smacked around the skull from either direct impact or a whiplash type motion, when the head is snapped forwards, backwards, or sideways.  In soccer, most concussions are caused by head-to-head collisons when athletes compete for the ball in the air.

Many mistakenly think that a loss of consciousness or amnesia is required for an injury to be classified as a concussion, yet much more common symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and blurred vision.  Some symptoms are even more subtle: moodiness, irritability, sleep disturbances, light sensitivity and difficulty concentrating.

The vast majority of concussions are mild self-liming events, says Heidi Heller-Goff MD, a Spokane neurologist and mom to two Shadow players. However,  she cautions, there is a small percentage that can have life altering effects.   “It is critically important that parents have their child evaluated by a health care provider with experience in the field of head injury, so that an accurate assessment of risk can be made.”  

Taking another hit when the brain is not fully healed, can lead to “second impact syndrome” rapid swelling within the skull, increasing the intracranial pressure.  Although no athlete enjoys playing the wait and see game, it is vital to seek proper medical care and remain patient! Remember, recovery times vary and it’s not a one size fits all proposition.

For additional information check out the following web sites;   cdc.gov/concussion or nata.org/health-issues/concussion