Concussion Care for Athletes

With the CDC reports that concussion rates have doubled in the last 10 years, it is imperative to have heightened awareness of the signs and symptoms to ensure proper management. Concussion symptoms can range in severity and presentation, making diagnosis and treatment challenging. It is important to remember that one does not have to lose consciousness to suffer from a concussion. In addition, loss of consciousness is not a severity indicator of the injury. The two most reported signs of concussion are headache and dizziness, however some other symptoms include nausea, vomit-ing, fatigue, irritability, feeling slowed down or “foggy”, difficulty with concentration/memory, balance disturbance, changes in sleep patterns, decreased appetite, blurred vision and sensitivity to light or noise.

When people think of sports-related concussions, most think of football as the main sport associat-ed with risks of concussion. While football does carry a high risk, especially for male athletes, it is important to understand that other sports such as soccer and ice hockey are also high incident sports, with soccer being the sport most commonly associated with concussions for female athletes. A concussion is sustained by force or trauma to the head or upper body that causes the brain to shake inside of the skull. Athletes are at risk for concussion in any sport-related activity that in-volves physical contact with other players and/or the ball. When a concussion is expected, immedi-ate medical attention is critical to prevent repeat injury. For most athletes, a concussion can heal with cognitive and physical rest and graded re-entry to physical activity. However, if the athlete returns to play too soon and they sustain a repeat injury the deficits can be long lasting. A physi-cian who specializes in sports-related concussions is key in managing recovery, monitoring pro-gress, and making additional recommendations along the healthcare continuum if needed.

For athletes with concussive symptoms that persist, the standard of care should include a multidis-ciplinary pathway for rehabilitative services, with a Sports Medicine physician champion. This may include Neuropsychological testing and/or counseling, Physical Therapy for balance and con-ditioning, and Speech Therapy for cognitive retraining. Therapy should be patient focused, target-ing physical and cognitive deficits that impair ability to complete daily tasks and should be reported back to the ordering physician to monitor progress.

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Julie Scott, MS, CCC-SLP
Riverside Outpatient Therapy-Shoreview

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