We applaud an active lifestyle, as the benefits far outweigh the risks. That said, there is one risk that you should be aware of — head injuries. Each year in the United states, there are 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related traumatic brain injuries, but researchers believe that this number may be low since many people don’t seek help.
The dangers of not treating a head injury are very real, which is why the team here at Genesis Orthopaedic and Spine wants to highlight this potentially serious problem. In the following, we review the most common head injuries in athletes, the signs of a head injury, and how we go about treating the condition.
The most common sports-related head injuries
Far and away, the most common head injury in sports is a concussion, which occurs when there’s a blow to your head or a jolt to your body, which rocks your head back and forth violently.
When this happens, your brain slams into your skull, which can damage brain cells and create chemical changes in your brain.
There are several degrees of a concussion, which range from mild to severe, but it’s important to note that even mild concussions deserve medical attention.
Outside of concussions, there are other severe types of head injuries, including acute subdural hematoma (veins rupture in your brain) and traumatic cerebrovascular disease (vertebral artery dissection), which is extremely rare.
For the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to focus on concussions, which are far more prevalent. Not to mention, the other types of head injuries that we mention require immediate emergency care.
Recognizing the signs of a concussion
Concussions are tricky because symptoms vary from one person to the next, and they may also be delayed. That said, most people report symptoms shortly after the injury, which include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Sensitivity to light and/or noise
- Ringing in your ears
- Memory lapse (you can’t remember the injury)
- Mood changes
- Difficulty concentrating
- Slurred or slow speech
Again, these symptoms may develop days, weeks, and even months after the initial injury, so don’t assume that all is well if you’re feeling fine just after your head injury.
Erring on the side of caution with concussions
We believe that any time you hit your head or your head was rocked back and forth, it’s a good idea to have us check you out. Our team includes Credentialed ImPACT® Consultants who have completed an extensive training program that focuses on concussion assessment and care.
When you come see us, we review your symptoms and then perform neurobehavioral and neuropsychological tests. We’re equipped with a Biodex BioSway™ machine, which allows us to analyze your balance and coordination immediately after your injury and throughout your recovery.
If we diagnose a concussion, the most important step you need to take is to stop playing sports. One of the biggest dangers when it comes to a concussion is incurring another blow to your head while your brain is trying to heal. However, noncontact cardiovascular exercise early on in a concussion can help as well as vestibular rehabilitation by a physical therapist.
Aside from taking a timeout for a while, we also recommend that you steer clear of activities that overstimulate your brain, such as screen time. Your brain is hurt and needs as much “quiet” time as possible so that the damaged brain cells can repair themselves.
If you’re experiencing headaches, we can recommend some over-the-counter medications that may help.
The most important part of your recovery is returning to see us regularly for ongoing assessments. We can track your brain health and give you the green light when we see that your brain is fully healed.
If you have any questions about sports-related head injuries, contact our office in Westfield, New Jersey.