Motocross riders are at risk for concussions. Photo by Sheryl McCutcheon
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.6 to 3.8 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year. So whether you are a coach, a parent, or an athlete, knowing how to treat and prevent concussions could be vital.
After sustaining a concussion, be sure to see a health care provider who can give you a diagnosis. A proper diagnosis can usually be made by going over the history of the injury and performing a neurological examination that will include checking memory, hearing, vision, balance, strength, coordination, and reflexes. Sometimes, a physician may order a CT scan or MRI to rule out skull fractures or bleeding in the brain.
The most effective treatment for concussions is simply rest. The brain needs time to heal before returning to sports activities. To reduce the pain of headaches, take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). Do not take aspirin, ibuprofen, or other NSAIDs as they can increase your risk for bleeding. Do not return to sports before getting clearance from your doctor. Returning before the brain is fully healed can put you at risk for second impact syndrome, which can be fatal. Second impact syndrome occurs when a second concussion is suffered before the brain has healed from a previous concussion. This can cause acute swelling of the brain that can be difficult to control, often resulting in death.
There are some complications that can arise from concussions. Post concussion syndrome is a disorder in which a combination of post-concussion symptoms, such as headaches and dizziness, last for weeks or possibly months, after the injury that caused the concussion. Suffering multiple concussions can cause long-term memory loss, psychiatric disorders, learning problems, cumulative neurological damage, and possibly a predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease.
Given the possible long-term effects of concussions, prevention is crucial. The following are some simple ways to lower the risk of incurring a concussion:
• Always wear a seat belt when driving or riding in a motor vehicle.
• Be sure to use the appropriate car seat or booster seat for your child.
• Always wear proper safety equipment when engaging in contact sports. Even mouth guards can possibly prevent concussions.
• Wear a helmet when bicycling, rollerblading, skiing, skateboarding, etc.
• Wear sensible shoes that won’t make you prone to falls.
• Maintain a “fall proof” home.
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 75% of traumatic brain injuries that occur each year are concussions. Knowing how to prevent and treat concussions can save you some headaches.
For more info: see Part 1 of this article on concussions.
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