Concussions aren’t just for football players

When the topic of concussions comes up, most of our minds go to football. A great deal of attention has been devoted to concussions in the NFL especially with the concussion settlement awards reaching $500,000,000 in less than 2 years, but football isn’t the most common cause of concussions. Even combining all sports and being struck by or into an object, it still comes in second to falls. Falls account for nearly half of all traumatic brain injuries. This especially true for kids under 14 and adults over 65 with 54% and 79% of concussions coming from falls respectively. Therefore, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms for anyone in your family and not just the ones in sports.

What are concussions?

Concussions are injuries to the brain without internal bleeding and it does not always require a loss of consciousness. They are a mild version of traumatic brain injuries. While its common to see bumps, blows, or jolts to the head as a cause, hits to the body can also cause concussions if it causes the head to move back and forth rapidly. Normally the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) suspends and cushions the brain from contacting the skull with motion of the skull being slowly followed by the brain. However, when the head moves rapidly this delay can cause the two to move in opposite directions and even collide with each other. This results in a concussion.

Signs and symptoms

While we might be looking for a concussion after a big hit in football, it’s important to be looking for subtle changes in case the incident was missed. A child falling on the playground or an elderly family member falling at home alone might be overlooked and the injured person might forget or not remember the incident. Be on the lookout for these symptoms:

  • Appearing dazed or confused
  • Forgetfulness
  • Is unsure of day, location, or activity
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Shows behavior or personality change
  • Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall
  • Can’t recall events after hit or fall

An evaluation by a doctor should be sought if you notice the symptoms above, but not necessarily an emergency room trip. Remain vigilant for signs of a more serious injury that requires immediate medical attention.

  • Headaches that Worsen
  • Increasing Neck Pain with stiffness
  • Unusual Behavior Change
  • Weakness/Numbness in Arms/Legs
  • Looks Very Drowsy (Cannot be Awakened)
  • Repeated Vomiting
  • Lacerations, Fractures, Bruising, Raised Skin
  • Change in State of Consciousness
  • Can’t Recognize People or Places
  • Increased Confusion or Irritability
  • Slurred Speech
  • Seizures

Myths and Treatment

There are many misconceptions and myths surrounding concussions that can hamper recovery. Things like avoiding sleep, toughing it out, and returning to activities before the symptoms are fully gone can make recovery slow or lead to a worse injury.

The first phase in treatment is rest or no activity, no school/work attendance, and strict limits on technology. This is known as physical and cognitive rest. The brain needs time to heal and one of the best ways to rest the mind is to sleep, contrary to what most believe about concussions. If a person can hold a conversation and doesn’t have any of the warning signs of a more serious problem listed above, they should be able to sleep. For children, it’s recommended that parents wake them a few times during the night to check for any signs of worsening.

Subsequent phases of treatment are slow steps back into physical and cognitive activities. A health care professional, like a chiropractor or trainer can help guide the injured person to recovery but don’t forget to get proper approval from a medical doctor or doctor of chiropractic before returning to pre-injury activities.