Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists (ANS) Focus on National Brain Injury Awareness Month to Educate the General Public on Head Trauma

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Keeping children and teens healthy and safe is always a top priority at ANS. Whether you are a parent, youth sports coach, high school coach, school professional, or health care provider, this article will help you recognize, respond to, and minimize the risk of concussion or other serious brain injury.

ANS

If there is any doubt that a young athlete has had a concussion, he or she must be removed immediately from the game and monitored over several days.

March—also known as National Brain Injury Awareness Month—is a good time to remind ourselves and others that suspected head injuries, especially concussions, shouldn’t be ignored, say Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists (ANS).

Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI), which account for 75% of TBIs. There are 1.6-3.8 million sports-related concussions per year. The word concussion may sound benign, but it is a brain injury. Many athletes suffer knee injuries, ankle injuries, shoulder injuries, and a variety of musculoskeletal injuries. Some of these injuries we can play through, others require rest, and a very small percentage requires surgery. Unlike musculoskeletal injuries, we cannot play while still suffering from the effects of a concussion.

What is a concussion?
A concussion is a blow to the head or body that causes shaking of the brain, causing damage to the tissue of the brain. Common examples include an athlete’s head hitting a stationary object, such as the ground in field sports (football, soccer, etc), boards/ice in hockey, and floor in basketball. A hard blow to the body that shakes the head can cause a concussion. The head doesn't have to be hit directly.

What to look for?
Symptoms: headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion, ringing in the ears, dizziness, seeing stars or flashing lights, double vision, feeling dazed, and being unaware of the period, opposition, or score of the game.

Signs: loss of consciousness, seizure, slow to answer questions, easily distracted, poor concentration, vacant stare, nausea/vomiting, slurred speech, inappropriate playing behavior, poor coordination, poor balance.

Remember loss of consciousness occurs in less than 10% of athletes with concussion.

When do kids come out of games?
If there is any doubt that a young athlete has had a concussion, he or she must be removed immediately from the game and monitored over several days. It is common for an athlete to feel much better within a few minutes on the sideline. However, the symptoms may not manifest for several hours to several days. If we return the athlete back to the field (even though they feel better) and it turns out they did have a concussive episode and sustain more hits, we can turn a simple 1-3 week recovery process into a 4-6 month recovery process. During that time the student athlete may miss time from school, social life, and sports.

If it turns out the athlete doesn't manifest the symptoms of concussion over the next several days, they, in most cases, can safely return to sports after a proper medical evaluation without incident. It is important for our young athletes to learn the signs and symptoms of concussion and be honest about reporting how they are feeling. This is the most important step in protecting the ability of our young athletes to continue playing the sports they enjoy.

What are the short and long term consequences of concussions and their treatments?
Both short, and long-term symptoms can include difficulty with headaches, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to noise, fatigue, poor concentration, poor memory, dizziness, difficulty with balance, feeling foggy, trouble falling asleep, sleeping too much, nausea, ringing in the ears, depression, anxiety, sadness, feeling more emotional, irritability.

How to prevent a concussion?

  • Make sure your helmet fits and your chin strap is snug and secure at all times.
  • Under no circumstances lead with your head.
  • Keep your head up. It helps you see what is coming, and minimizes direct head contact into the boards.
  • Improving neck strength may also benefit.

ANS Spine & Sports Concussion Center
The Spine & Sports Concussion Center at ANS is co-directed by Drs. Jack Knightly and Joe Rempson. The center was designed to address the comprehensive needs of the athlete who has sustained a concussion or other sports-related neurological injury in order to facilitate his or her recovery and safe, confident return to play. Our services include detailed screening and assessment of concussions, including computerized neuropsychological testing and the treatment, evaluation, and follow-up of these disorders while incorporating additional computerized neuropsychological testing as needed. ANS also does preseason testing for athletes. This test provides an individual baseline measurement for use in determining treatment progress if the athlete is subsequently injured later in the season. For more information about ANS visit http://www.ansdocs.com or call 973.285.7800.

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Hayley Cuccolo
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