It has become quite the buzz word in both the medical and sports worlds. Let’s take a high-level look at what a concussion is and why attention needs paid to this serious injury.
Basically, a concussion occurs when trauma to the head and neck causes a vigorous, unnatural impact to the brain. In most cases, the side-effects of a concussion are short-lived and appear as a headache. However, in some situations, a concussion may result in impaired brain function.
So how do you prevent a concussion?
The strength and stability of the muscles of the neck and trunk will help minimize the impact of injuries and the likelihood of concussions in high impact sports like football and hockey. For children (and young adults) participating in sports, an evaluation from a licensed physical therapist can help determine potential areas of weakness and instability. Information from the evaluation will help your physical therapist design a neck-strengthening program that can help avoid serious injury and possible concussions due to weak neck muscles.
Is it Really Possible?
It’s almost impossible to prevent concussions, but it is possible to reduce their risk. One of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the risk of a concussion is to wear a protective helmet. Even if a sport does not require the use of a helmet, it is strongly suggested that you use one anyway. For children, the earlier you can instill this habit, the better. Teach them that a helmet is not an option but a necessity. If children begin wearing helmets at an early age, they will be more likely to use them as they grow older instead of thinking that a helmet is not ‘cool’ enough. The first rule for your child’s safety should be: “If you want to play, you need to wear a helmet.”
What is the damage caused by a concussion?
Concussions can be detected years after they occur in MRI scans as ‘white spots’. The meaning of these spots is often debated, along with the long-term impact of a concussion. Regardless of the severity of concussions, you want to minimize them as much as possible. Concussions have been known to cause temporary visual impairment, speech impairment, balance issues, memory loss and other problems. How long these effects last depends upon the severity of the concussion and the time between when the concussion occurred and when it was treated.
Rehabilitation can help
Your physical therapist or athletic trainer can work closely with other health professionals responsible for your safety. They can help you by creating a structured, personalized neck strengthening and core strengthening program. This will minimize the risk of concussions. If you work closely with a coach, a trainer and a physical therapist, he or she will be able to handle the physical stress associated with the sport. When it comes to the head and neck region, an ounce of prevention is certainly worth (more than) a pound of cure.
Jeff Booher is a regular contributor for InjuReplay and owner of Peak Physical Therapy and Sports Performance located in Lincoln, Nebraska. Learn more about Jeff and his sports medicine background HERE.