Some estimate that between 1 and 3 million concussions occur annually. Many go undetected and untreated. By definition a concussionis a brain injury that results from the application of force to the head. This results in energy being transferred to the brain resulting in diffuse injury and the likelihood of symptoms. Because the incidence of brain injury is so prevalent many states now require education for parents and student athletes before they can start their season. The treament of concussion is individualized to the student athlete based on prior history of concussion, symptom profile, and unique circumstances. Athletes must be symptom free before returning to practice.
Why are concussions missed? There are several reasons that one might overlook a concussive injury. First, a player can be diagnosed with a concussion even when he has not been rendered unconscious. Many people wrongly believe that if there was no loss of consciousness there was no concussion. This has been the standard since 2008. A second reason some trainers and parents miss concussion is that the acute symptoms generally evaporate quite fast. For example, one of my players sustained what I knew to be a concussion and exhibited confusion and short-term memory loss that was transient. When his parents entered the locker room his mental status had cleared nicely. I was hardpressed to convince them that he should rest and not attend our practice the next morning. Lastly, concussion is referred to as an invisible injury without outward sign of debility like a fracture or separated shoulder. Yet there are prominent neurocognitive consequences of concusssion that last 4-7 days. In many cases, the symptoms of concusssion can last well over a week or longer. There is a subset of athletes who go on to be diagnosed with postconcussion syndrome – where symptoms linger for over one month.
Contact Michael Sefton, Ph.D. for concussion management and return to school support at 508-579-0417