What is a concussion?
A concussion is a common injury sustained by elite athletes that causes trauma to the brain in a mild, moderate, or severe way. Often, it occurs as a result of a blow to the head triggering an onset of cognitive impairments and difficulty with coordination.
For athletes, a head injury can significantly impact their training, performance, and recovery as well as their day-to-day physical and mental health.
What are the symptoms of a concussion?
There are an array of signs that may be indicative of a concussion. Some common symptoms experienced include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and disorientation
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of memory
- Blurred or double vision
- Weakness in arms and legs
When these symptoms are present, it’s vital the athlete is taken for urgent medical attention. Equally, understanding what these symptoms signify is important in order to recognise the signs in a teammate or opponent, if relevant.
How is a concussion treated?
While treatment should always be advised by a doctor, in most cases treatment can continue at home following medical guidance. Generally, physical, and mental rest is encouraged as the foundation of treatment.
Some things that are recommended to avoid include:
- Return to exercise
- Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen
- Medications like aspirin and sedatives
- Sleep immediately following head trauma
What is the recovery look like?
Recovery from a concussion will vary from athlete to athlete and is dependent on the severity of the head injury. Following initial treatments and rest for up to 48 hours where symptoms don’t worsen, athletes are able to gradually return to physical activity.
The following table from the Australian Institute of Sport provides the recommended return to sport protocol.
Athletes returning to sport should follow these steps and spend at least 24 hours at each level:
Athletes should only progress to the next level when they have completed 24 hours at the current level without recurrence of symptoms. If symptoms recur or worsen, athletes should step down to the previous level and complete at least 24 hours symptom free at that level.
If you believe you or someone you know has sustained a concussion, please seek immediate medical attention before continuing with any athletic pursuits.