The Seriousness of a Bump on the Head
CAMBRIDGE, Ohio, March 4, 2011 – It may be funny when a cartoon character gets bonked on the head, but it’s not so funny when it happens in real life. Feeling confused or dazed for a little while, having poor concentration or being knocked out after getting hit in the head are all symptoms of a very serious head injury called a concussion.
In recognition of March as National Athletic Training Month, Southeastern Med’s Athletic Trainers warn parents, coaches and teen athletes about the seriousness of sports-related head injuries.
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. Athletes who sustain concussions usually recover without lasting health problems by following certain precautions and taking a breather from sports. But a child with an undiagnosed concussion can be at risk for brain damage, disability and even death.
“Concussions can be complex injuries to assess and treat because symptoms do not always emerge right away and sometimes can persist for weeks or months,” said Amy Zalenski, MAE, ATC, LAT, CES, Certified Athletic Trainer at Southeastern Med’s Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Services. “Even without a loss of consciousness, it’s important for the athlete to be under close watch for symptoms of a concussion.”
There are many different symptoms reported by athletes who suffer concussions. According to the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) 2011 protocol, any of the following are an indication of concussion:
- Balance or dizziness problems,
- Double or fuzzy vision,
- Sensitivity to light,
- Concentration or memory problems,
- Confusion, and
- Personality or behavior changes.
Southeastern Med contracts certified athletic trainers to three local school districts. Michael Marston, ATC, LAT, works with student athletes in the Meadowbrook School District; Angie Nelson, ATC, LAT, delivers services to athletes in the John Glenn School District; and Amy Zalenski, MAE, ATC, LAT, covers student athletes for the Cambridge School District. Finally, Joshua Knott, MA, ATC, CSCS, is Southeastern Med’s Athletic Training Clinical Supervisor, who delivers full-time services to individuals at the Brick Church Road facility.
The athletic trainers are essential in the discovery and management of a concussion, as well as all other injuries. In the event of a head injury, the athletic trainers begin standard concussion care by removing the athlete from the sport and recognizing symptoms, such as memory loss and headaches, from observation and answers provided by the injured athlete.
Treatment of a concussion is highly individualized, and recovery time can vary greatly. Initial at-home treatment for a concussion is rest, which may include rest from both sports and school to allow the brain time to heal. Even though most concussions are mild, all concussions are potentially serious. If a concussion is left untreated or is hit again before healed completely, the athlete is at a much greater risk of second impact syndrome, which can lead to brain swelling and bleeding, and possibly permanent disability or death.
At John Glenn once a concussed athlete is symptom free, Nelson then evaluates him by using the ImPACT (Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing test), which is a computerized exam utilized in many professional, collegiate and high school sports programs across the country to successfully diagnose and manage concussions.
The computerized exam is given to athletes before beginning a contact sport practice or competition to establish a healthy, baseline score. It tracks information such as memory, reaction time, speed and concentration. The athlete must be within a few points of the baseline score to return to play.
“I am more confident in safely returning athletes to activity following a concussion with ImPACT,” said Nelson. “Sometimes kids will minimize or even deny their symptoms because they want to play. They can’t fake or lie on the ImPACT test. It gives you clear, objective results that are easily explained to athletes, coaches and parents. It’s a great tool for keeping kids safe.”
For more information about concussion management, call the athletic trainers at Southeastern Med at 740-439-8977.