Simply put, concussions are brain injuries that can range from mild to traumatic in severity.
A concussion or a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is caused by a blow or jolt to the head. A lot of concussions occur while playing sports and, in fact, “about 3.8 million concussions occur each year in the U.S. from sports-related injuries” according to Michigan Medicine.
Depending on the severity and number of concussions, concussions don’t usually have lasting effects on the brain. This is if, and only if, the brain is given time to properly heal. Concussions should be taken seriously no matter the severity because, like any other part of our bodies, the brain needs time to heal after a hard hit.
In this article, you will learn about sports concussions and how the negative effects of concussions can be limited by taking a few steps. If you would like to learn how to diagnose a concussion, read here.
My Experience with Concussions
As a former college athlete at GGC, I’ve witnessed and experienced concussions while playing softball. Sports concussions are super common. In fact, I’ve witnessed at least one concussion per season in college- where a teammate or the opposing team took a hit to the head and was out to recover for some time.
I was one of those athletes out with a brain injury and needed recovery. I took a blow to the head while batting against one of the fastest pitchers I’ve faced. She was throwing in the mid-60s, and once hit, my helmet rattled around as I fell to the ground. I was able to get up and slightly jog to first base, but my ears were still ringing. I was immediately sensitive to light and sound. Light and sound sensitivity are both common symptoms of a concussion. Refer to First Response’s other concussion blog for the full list of concussion symptoms.
While it’s impossible to completely prevent a blow to the head, there were steps I could’ve taken to mild its severity.
Steps to Take
These steps could make the difference between a mild concussion and a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). These steps apply to all sports that require a helmet:
- Purchase a properly fitting helmet. If your helmet is too big, the helmet will rattle around, causing a more severe jolt to the brain. If your helmet is too small, it will put more pressure on your head, and your neck will absorb most of the impact of the hit, which might cause a severe neck injury. Most sports stores and coaches know how a helmet should fit and can offer advice on which helmet to purchase.
- Check the quality of the helmet pads before use. This is the step I should’ve taken before using my helmet. Pads are just as important as a properly fitted helmet. If some pads are missing or are worn down, it can increase the severity of a blow to the head.
How to Recover
Rest is the most effective way to recover after a brain injury. Rest physically and mentally the first few days after symptoms occur. Then, slowly work in mental exercises that don’t involve staring at a bright screen like your phone or computer. This will begin to exercise the parts of the brain that were once stagnant without overstimulating the brain. The intervals of stimulations and rest will vary based on the number and severity of the concussion. Make it a priority to consult with your doctor right after the injury on the best recovery plan for your specific needs.
For a sport’s concussion, the athlete will slowly increase physical activity until they are doing all movements of their particular sport for longer periods of time without over simulation. Some sports teams require passing a cognitive concussion test before returning to play. These are even more beneficial if they have a baseline test that matches your normal, non-injured, cognitive abilities. Only contact Highschool sports offer baseline tests to all players. Administration should grant your child a baseline test upon request if your child doesn’t play a contact sport.