As student athletes head back to the classroom and fall sports begin, head injuries are always a concern. What are the common symptoms of a concussion that parents, athletes and coaches should look for, and when should someone seek medical care?
Dr. Miller says: “First, let’s discuss what causes a concussion – a direct blow to the head or a blow to the body where the head experiences a whiplash force, even if there is no direct trauma to the head. If there has been a traumatic event followed by the development of one or more concerning symptoms (see list below), which generally appear within minutes of the traumatic event, then a concussion should be suspected. Be aware, though, that symptoms may be delayed for a few days.
“Concussions can, but frequently do not, involve loss of consciousness. The most common concussion symptom is a headache, but one may also experience dizziness, nausea, difficulty remembering or concentrating, sleep abnormalities, mood disturbance, light and/or noise sensitivity, neck pain, vision issues and/or fatigue.
“An athlete with a suspected concussion – that is trauma with any of the previously mentioned symptoms – should never return to play the same day, unless cleared by a concussion-knowledgeable medical professional. In my opinion, all athletes with a suspected concussion should seek medical care, as even short-lived symptoms warrant modified physical activity and schoolwork, and all athletes need to follow a set graduated return-to-play protocol. Longer-lasting symptoms may require further treatment, which may include medication or therapy. In particular, any athlete wishing to return to a contact sport, or any athlete with a prior history of concussion or medical history of a headache, mood or learning disorder, should be seen and treated by a concussion-knowledgeable medical professional.”
Megan Groh Miller, M.D., is a fellowship-trained primary care sports medicine specialist at Tri Rivers. She provides concussion care, including ImPACT® baseline and post-concussion testing, and serves as team physician for both Slippery Rock University Athletics and the Slippery Rock School District, as well as physician adviser to the athletic trainer at Moniteau High School.