By Jeffrey Mjaanes, MD
A concussion occurs when there is direct or indirect trauma to the brain that results in a functional, but not structural, injury. Not every bump to the head results in a concussion but when an athlete suffers trauma to the head and then manifests symptoms such as headache, confusion, dizziness, memory loss, mood swings and sleep disturbances, a concussion is likely present.
Concussions are a relatively common injury seen in athletes of all ages involved in contact sports. It is estimated that over 300,000 traumatic brain injuries occur each year. Children and adolescents account for almost half of all brain injuries, take a longer time for their symptoms to clear and are at increased risk of complications from a concussion. The highest risk sport is football, but girls’ soccer has the second-highest incidence, followed by boys’ soccer, basketball and lacrosse. Concussions can also occur in recreational activities such as cycling or skiing.
Most concussions last one to two weeks but often take longer to resolve in children. Athletes younger than 21 years of age are at increased risk for complications from concussion, including second impact syndrome and post-concussive syndrome. Second impact syndrome is when an athlete who is still recovering from a first concussion receives a second blow to the head, resulting in brain swelling and possibly death. Post-concussive syndrome occurs when symptoms of a concussion persist and may last up to nine months or longer, affecting school or job performance, mood and sleep.
Research is advancing daily in diagnosis and management of concussion. We now know that athletes who suffer repeat concussions over their lifetime are at increased risk for conditions such as dementia, depression and Parkinson’s disease. We have also learned that specific types of physical and/or cognitive therapy can help reduce symptoms. Still, the mainstay of treatment is physical and mental rest until all symptoms resolve and then progress slowly back to full sports. This process should supervised and guided by a health care professional, such as a physician or certified athletic trainer, experienced in concussions to ensure a timely, but safe, return to sports.
Join specialists from the Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic at Rush on Sept. 29 to learn how to recognize a concussion and how to return back to sports as safely and quickly as possible. Free parking and refreshments will be provided to all registered attendees. Because space is limited, registration is required.
Jeffrey Mjaanes, MD, a sports medicine physician with Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, is medical director of the Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic at Rush.