As we reach the end of November, the football season is nearing its thunderous conclusion and winter sports are kicking into gear. That means it is also an important time to discuss brain injuries and concussion management in sports.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates 1.6 million to 3.8 million concussions occur every year, with around 5 to 10 percent of athletes experiencing a concussion in any given season of sports. Concussions are especially common in high-contact sports such as football, but they can happen in any sport and it is essential for athletes, coaching staff, and parents to know what to do when a player is injured.
It is especially important for coaches and medical staff to be prepared for concussions late in the football season. During emotionally-charged, high-stakes games, players are much more likely to hide or fail to report concussion symptoms out of fear of being pulled from the game and potentially disappointing their teammates.
Adults on the sidelines have to be ready to remove injured players from the game, and to do that they need to know the signs to look for.
While there are numerous symptoms of brain injuries that can vary from case to case, The Mayo Clinic advises keeping an eye out for the following signs in players who may have suffered a concussion:
- Headache/pressure in the head.
- Temporary loss of consciousness.
- Confusion or feeling as if in a fog.
- Amnesia surrounding traumatic event.
- Ringing in the ears.
- Slurred speech.
More severe signs a player has suffered a head injury and requires immediate medical attention include:
- Headache that gets worse and does not go away.
- Slurred speech, weakness, numbness or decreased coordination.
- Repeated vomiting.
- Inability to wake up.
If a player shows any of these signs, it is imperative that they be removed from play immediately. While the vast majority of concussions are non-severe, concussed brains are highly vulnerable and subsequent injuries carry significantly more severe risks.
Once a player has been removed from play, qualified medical professionals can assess their condition and decide how best to manage the injury. The important thing for those standing on the sidelines is ensuring an injured player is protected from further injury.