When athletes ignore warning signs of concussion, the consequences can be both immediate and long-term.
No one wants to be taken out of the big game for any reason. This can especially be true with a suspected concussion. After all, it’s just a minor headache. What’s a little discomfort on the way to a winning record, beating your rivals or winning a championship?
The truth is that a concussion is a traumatic brain injury that can have long-lasting impact. Most athletes with concussion heal within seven to 10 days. However, confusion and “just not feeling right” can affect their ability to perform on the field, at school and at work. If athletes return to play before their concussion has healed entirely, this puts them at risk for getting a second concussion or developing post-concussive syndrome.
Post-concussive syndrome can persist months after the initial injury. Headaches, nausea and cognitive slowness are all related to post-concussive syndrome and have a significant impact on a player’s life. Someone who has sustained multiple concussions is more at risk for post-concussive syndrome.
In severe cases, repeated concussions can cause Parkinson’s and dementia in former athletes years after they retire from play.
What Concussions Look Like
Any hard hit to the head can result in a concussion. Someone with concussion may not remember what happened before or after the blow to the head. Answering questions slowly, confusion about what’s going on in the game, or changes in mood or personality are also problems associated with concussion.
If a concussion is suspected, an athlete should be pulled from play immediately and not allowed back on the field until cleared by a medical professional that has experience in treating concussion. When in doubt, sit them out.
In rare cases, a blow to the head may cause bleeding on the brain. Call 911 immediately if an athlete is experiencing:
- A headache that gets worse or doesn’t go away
- Confusion, unusual behavior or agitation
- Loss of consciousness or blacking out
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Sleepiness or an inability to wake up
Athletes with concussion should slowly return to normal activities under the supervision of a medical professional.