Whether it’s an NFL game, a college soccer practice, or a high school wrestling match, athletes are constantly at risk for a concussion. The Rothman Institute recently launched the region’s most comprehensive concussion program. According to the program’s director, a blow to the head should always be taken seriously.
“Athletes tend to disregard small hits to the head during a sporting event or practice,” says R. Robert Franks, Jr., DO, a non-surgical sports medicine physician at the Rothman Institute who specializes in concussion management.
“What they fail to realize is that these so-called ‘dings’ may be more serious than the athlete believes.”
Dr. Franks says that the brain “sloshes around” the inside of the skull after a direct blow to the head or from force radiating from the chest or neck. This can lead to tearing of blood vessels and injury to the nerves, which can cause the brain to temporarily lose some of its normal function.
New research shows that the cumulative effects of concussion can possibly make these temporary changes permanent within the brain.
Dr. Franks points out the important signs that suggest a concussion:
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of memory
- Confusion or slurred speech
- Nausea, headache, dizziness or blurred vision
- Sensitivity to sound or light
- Numbness of the extremities
If a person is unconscious for longer than two minutes, has repeated vomiting or bleeding from the injury, they need to be evaluated in the emergency room. Follow-up care from a physician is necessary and always recommended. In the event of a minor concussion, patients are typically instructed to rest and ice the area for 20-30 minutes every two hours for about 48 hours.
“Concussions have always been common, but only recently have we realized their potential long-term severity,” says Dr. Franks.
“Luckily most head injuries are mild and with rest and proper medical care, people usually fully recover.”