Concussion Basics

What is a Concussion?

The occurrence of concussion, a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), has risen dramatically over the past 10 years and is nowadays considered a major cause of disability in Canada and the US. This type of brain injury is caused by a direct bump, blow, or jolt to the head or an indirect blow to the body that causes the brain to rapidly move back and forth within the skull. Concussions can occur during a fall, accident, household or work mishaps and commonly in high-contact sports such as football, rugby, hockey, and soccer. Indications of a concussion usually reflect a functional disturbance to the brain and may include physical (e.g. headaches, nausea), cognitive (e.g. difficulty with concentration or memory), emotional (e.g. irritability, sadness), and ‘maintenance’ (e.g. sleep disturbances, changes in appetite or energy levels) symptoms. Standing balance is also a common indicator of concussion, whereby concussed individuals suffer from a distinct lack of postural stability. Improper diagnosis of these indicators and management of concussion may result in serious long-term or lifelong disability, risk of coma, or in extreme cases death.

What Should I Do If I Have a Concussion?

Never ignore a collision to the head – it is always better to miss one game than the whole season and to be safe than sorry. If you believe you have a concussion, informing your coach or athletic therapist/trainer is the first step in order to evaluate whether or not you have a concussion. If a more severe injury is suspected, they will send you to the hospital for further examination and diagnosis to understand the severity of the brain injury. Even though there are currently no validated medical treatments for concussions, the recommended recovery method is by giving your brain a rest, both physically and mentally. Rest includes limiting exercise and activities that require thinking or mental concentration such as schoolwork, reading, and using a computer or mobile device. Before returning to play, it’s crucial to receive a clearance from a medical professional even if you no longer feel the symptoms of a concussion anymore. Returning to sport too soon will increase the risk of having a second concussion that could lead to permanent or fatal brain damage.

How Do I Prevent a Concussion?

Do what you love and love what you love. If participating in sport is an activity that you enjoy, don’t let the increased chance of receiving a concussion prevent you from doing something that you enjoy. Concussion risk can be reduced by playing by the rules, wearing the proper equipment for the sport and wearing the equipment properly, learn and use the proper techniques of your sport, and practicing good sportsmanship.

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