Youth Athlete Concussions – Diagnosis and Recovery


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    By: ActivityTree

    There has been serious talk amongst medical professionals about concussions and how their potential long-term effects are now believed to be much more significant and severe. Studies show there are more than 300,000 sports related concussions per year. Athletes who suffer from concussions and then return to the game before their brains have healed are increasing their risks for serious long-term problems such as chronic headaches, inability to concentrate, and in severe cases, death. 

    Diagnosing this Head Injury is Not an Easy Feat

    Concussions and their severity are difficult to assess. They cannot be confirmed through X-rays or MRI.  The intensity of the blow does not necessarily correlate with the severity of the injury. And, physical and neuropsychological symptoms vary significantly by person.  Physicians are left with a host of physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms to look at when arriving at a diagnosis. 

    Cognitive impairments which are indicators of a concussion are:
    Memory difficulty
    Slowed processing
    Difficulty with concentration

    Physical symptoms of a concussion may include:
    Nausea or vomiting
    Difficulty sleeping
    Double or blurred vision
    Sensitivity to light and sound

    Concussions can also result in emotional changes such as:
    Mood swings
    Decreased tolerance of stress

    Annual Baseline Testing Helps with Diagnosis

    Athletes as young as 11 years are able to undergo baseline diagnostic testing, which is an effective means of making concussion diagnosis easier for doctors. Testing measures various levels of cognitive function, including attention span, working memory, attention time, reaction time and problem solving.  In the event a person is believed to have a concussion, the athlete undergoes the same tests and the pre and post concussion results are compared.

    Recovering from a Concussion

    Most concussions resolve themselves with 7-10 days. During this time, it is highly recommended that concussion sufferers get a lot of rest, sleep and avoid strenuous activity. They should also limit time spent playing video games, working on the computer, watching television and texting, all of which can cause an increase in headaches and dizziness.

    When is it Safe to Get Back in the Game? 

    If an athlete has pre and post concussion diagnostics to compare, it makes it much easier to determine if they are ready to get back in the line-up. It’s simply a matter of waiting until tests show they’ve returned to the pre-concussion baseline. If comparison test results aren’t available, it’s strongly advised that athletes believed to have a concussion, no matter what its severity, should be sidelined indefinitely until the presence of physical and cognitive symptoms are gone. In some instances, this could mean taking a lengthy hiatus from contact sports. However, when dealing with brain injuries, it’s better to err on the side of caution rather than risk causing more and possibly long-term damage.

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