Concussions have become the top medical condition searched on Google over the past several years. Many notable athletes such as Eric Lindros, Sidney Crosby and Chris Pronger have brought well needed attention to a medical issue that has affected athletes across all ages. There have been many important advances in our knowledge of concussions, including how to identify, manage and recover from one.
It’s important to start off with what exactly a concussion is.
“Concussions, we need to say, it’s a brain injury, plain and simple,” said Dr. Shannon Bauman. “I think we often minimize it to say it’s just a knock on the head or you’re just dazed or just saw stars but we can’t forget concussions is a medical diagnosis. It’s a brain injury.”
Bauman has been caring for all types of athletes of all levels for the last 10 years. She is a member of the Parachute Canada Expert Advisory Committee, partnering with the Federal Government to create a National Concussion Strategy. Bauman is also a Medical Advisor on Concussions for the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, establishing provincial concussion standards, and an Expert Advisor to SmartTEAMS working with the NCAA — educating teams on concussions and improving the culture of resistance to report a concussion by athletes at the college level.
Concussions can happen from a direct hit to the head or from anything that causes enough of an impact to the brain that causes damage. They can come from indirect movements like falling down or being hit in the shoulder and don’t necessary need to have the head as the principal point of contact.
Only one symptom from a concussion needs to be present in order to diagnose someone. It’s important to pick up on the injury before it worsens. While resting, symptoms include limited movement, dizziness when moving the neck, sensitivity to changes in light and slower cognitive processing speeds.
Bauman says the best approach to take with any case is to be safe than sorry. Physicians are the only licensed profession in Ontario with the ability and expertise to diagnose a concussion and anyone who thinks they may be suffering should visit with them.
“It really is important, even with how small it might look, to make sure you do have someone who has that experience to look for any of those red flags to say ‘there may be more going on.’”
Any player with a suspected injury is recommended not to go back on ice for the rest of the game. They should visit with a physician within 24-48 hours and those around the player should keep their eyes open for any signs of deterioration and ensure proper follow-up.
Most who have been diagnosed with a concussion will have symptoms for anywhere between four and 30 days. It’s about taking the time needed to heal and not rushing back to anything. Most kids will be off for at least two weeks.
Getting clearance from a physician is important before returning to any physical activity, especially a contact sport or if you have a history of concussions. A slow, gradual comeback to day-to-day activities is also key in aiding recovery.