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Fall Sports Mean Concussion Season

It's fall which to most people means cooler temperatures and falling leaves. It also brings about football and volleyball games. Along with the fun, sports can also bring concussions. What is a concussion? How is it treated? What is the IMPACT testing that the school offers to students? Concussions can be a serious event so make sure as a parent that you are informed about this important issue.

What is a concussion?
A concussion is an event in which the brain is injured by being hit against the side of the skull. It can occur by sustaining a head injury in a sporting event, in a motor vehicle crash or any episode in which the skull stops moving but the brain does not. It is often characterized by confusion, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, vision changes, and difficulty walking or feeling unsteady. Every concussion is different and it is important to get checked by a healthcare professional at the first sign of concussion.

Concussions often cause changes in brain function, causing reaction time to slow and making further injury likely if the individual continues to play in a sporting event. If the individual gets re-injured while he or she has a concussion, there is a risk for second-impact syndrome. This can lead to coma, permanent neurological damage, and even brain death.

How is it treated?
At the first sign of possible concussion, it is important to remove any individual from a situation where re-injury is possible. All high school players will be removed from a sporting event in these situations. It is then important to be checked out by a healthcare professional within the next 24 to 48 hours. If the concussion is associated with neurological symptoms, immediate evaluation by a medical provider is warranted. All high school athletes who are believed to have a concussion will have to be cleared by a medical provider in order to return to practice or games. New guidelines show that there is at least a 7 day window before return to play is allowed.

What is IMPACT testing?
There is a new test available to determine the reaction time of the brain to help physicians and medical providers determine if an athlete is ready to return to play. All high school athletes take a computerized baseline test before the season begins. It tests an individual's reaction time and accuracy among other things. When a player is injured, the same computerized test is administered by a healthcare provider. The results are compared to the baseline test and it shows if the brain is still recovering or if it has gone back to "normal." It is important to note that the healthcare provider makes the decision regarding returning to play and this test is just another tool to help make that decision. It is very important that athletes are honest regarding their symptoms and that a medical provider examine individuals for any other signs of injury.

Football season invariably brings along with it some risk for concussion but as emphasis continues to be placed on proper tackling and avoiding targeting of defenseless players, it is hoped that the number of concussions will decrease. Encourage your child to be honest with coaches regarding symptoms of concussions or other injuries. Make an appointment today to talk with your healthcare provider if you have any questions.

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