With the recent events surrounding Sidney Crosby’s lengthy recovery from his concussion injury, this very touchy subject is again in the headlines. Amateur and professional sports associations (most notably football and hockey) have been struggling to find ways to protect their players without changing the whole fabric of the sport. It seems the more information medical researchers are discovering about concussions and their long term effects, the worse the news becomes.
While there have been great strides in the identification of concussion at the professional levels of sport where the athletes have immediate access to the best medical care available, much confusion on when to return to active play remains. Often times, as was seen with several pro athletes, players will be medically cleared to return to their sport only to have symptoms return with an increase in activities. These days, players are being closely monitored daily to ensure there is no increase in symptoms associated with an increase in exertion.
Unfortunately in amateur athletics, parents and coaches are often left wondering if their child or athlete did suffer a concussion. If an athlete does suffer a concussion, how serious is it and when can they return? An appointment with a neurologist can be very helpful to complete a thorough check, however this can takes months to arrange.
I have been around concussions in hockey as a player, coach and chiropractor. Often I will see patients who have suffered a concussion concurrently with musculoskeletal injuries. As a minor hockey coach, tough decisions need to be made with a player who just “had their bell rung”. Often times the athlete will report feeling good after a hit to the head and be eager to play again. Sometimes pressure from the parents may unfortunately be exerted as well. As a coach, it is important to know some of the common symptoms of a concussion. Signs of a concussion can include:
- Symptoms (such as headache), or
- Physical signs (such as unsteadiness), or
- Impaired brain function (e.g. confusion) or
- Abnormal behaviour
If an athlete exhibits any of these symptoms following contact to the head, they should be removed from the game or practice and should consult with a healthcare professional before returning to sport.
The Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) has been developed in partnership with many prominent sport associations and is used as a screening tool and for pre-season baseline testing. It is mainly utilized as a clearance tool in conjunction with a thorough check up by a professional after a head injury occurs. The SCAT is also used as monitor for when an athlete is ramping up activities that enables a coach or parent to monitor an athlete for setbacks. In my humble opinion, the SCAT should be used before the season begins as it is quite easy to administer. It can be found here.
With head injuries, it is better to be conservative with athletes and take the time to make sure they are ready to return. If a player suffers a second head injury before they have fully recovered from the first, often the outcomes are considerably worse so it is important to ensure they have fully recovered. This type of injury often requires an interdisciplinary approach between medical doctors, chiropractors and therapists (as seen with Crosby) to ensure a healthy future.
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Thanks and have a healthy day!
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.