Head’s Up Against Concussion
Oct 21, 2014 08:23AM ● Published by Dia
By Dr. Josh Prickett, Medical Director, North Tarrant E-Care Emergency Center
It’s autumn in North Texas, which means Southlake schools are back in session and football season is in full swing. Our coaches strive to put safety first at all times, but parents and athletes of all ages may not think too much about the risk for the traumatic brain injury known as concussion.
According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), there may be almost 4 million concussions each year in sports and recreation-related activities – and those are just those confirmed by doctors. Concussions can happen to anyone suffering a fall, a car accident, sports injury or other jarring impact. Some of the most common sports linked high-school-age concussions include football, lacrosse, soccer and baseball.
Don’t Ignore the Signs
One of the biggest issues surrounding concussion involves the bad habit of missing or hiding symptoms, which can vary a greatly. A head injury disturbs brain function, so the injury is not necessarily visible like a bruise, cut, fracture or sprain.
Concussion symptoms may include:
· Confusion or memory loss
· Slurred speech
· Prolonged fatigue
· Sudden vision or hearing loss
· Numbness or tingling
· Loss of taste or smell
· Sudden drowsiness or insomnia
According to the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), it’s crucial that anyone suspected of having a concussion immediately cease activity. When playing a sport, they should immediately be put on the sideline for assessment using appropriate guidelines from such established sources as the AAN, American College of Sports Medicine, NCAA (there is no single recognized standard for concussion evaluations, yet).
There also is no set time limit for return to play after a head injury, but research suggests that athletes of high school age and younger take longer to recover than college athletes. High school football players were statistically twice as likely to suffer concussions as collegiate players. Fortunately, Southlake Carroll ISD has licensed athletic trainers coordinating with local doctors to help care for student athletes. School administrators encourage you to learn all you can about potential safety issues by reading notifications for any sport (such as the Carroll ISD Athletics football statement) This offers tips to help prevent injury, including not lowering the head when tackling/blocking and never using the helmet as a battering ram. Proper physical conditioning improves overall balance, strength and endurance on the field.
Take Concussions Seriously
Concern about head injuries – especially in football – has been a hot-button issue lately after thousands of former professional players filed suit against the National Football League. Players suffering from dementia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other brain disorders claim the NFL knew of long-term risks associated with head trauma. Quickly being assessed, leaving the field of play and staying off the field longer have become standard procedure now.
Equipment standards also reflect greater awareness about concussions. For example, helmet manufacturers have begun testing "head impact sensors" designed to trigger a warning when a player sustains hard blow. Some alert trainers on the sideline, possibly prompting medical evaluation. In the first game of the NFL season, a player wearing one of the first sensor helmets actually did suffer a concussion. Improved protection and detection technology may help reduce the severity or frequency of football-related concussions, but these methods alone are far from accurate.
Simply wearing a helmet does not guarantee safety. Players, coaches, trainers, parents and medical staff must be alert. Monitor any hits, especially those that affect the face, head or neck. Repeat incidences may suggest a player needs to adjust their tackling or blocking techniques to avoid future injury.
The most important factor for anyone suffering a blow to the head is recognition. Stop for a medical assessment right away. If concussion symptoms such as dizziness, nausea or memory loss occur later, visit your local emergency care clinic with on-site CT equipment that can scan for serious traumatic brain injuries such as bruising, bleeding, swelling or skull fractures. Your doctor should perform a full neurological evaluation if you have any physical or psychological symptoms of concussion.
In addition to seeing your Southlake physician, you can get more information about concussion and traumatic brain injury online. The Centers for Disease Control offers a Concussion Tool Kit, and Heads Up online training courses, as well as educational videos.
To get a concussion evaluation from doctors near Southlake, visit E-Care Emergency Centers for emergency or urgent care. Check in online or call 817-281-7277.
Josh Prickett, MD, is currently medical director for North Tarrant location of E-Care Emergency Center in North Richland Hills. Dr. Prickett graduated from the University of Oklahoma Medical School and has been practicing emergency care in Oklahoma, Minnesota and Texas since 1989. He has been married to his wife Carin for 29 years. They have a son Jonathan, a daughter Whitney, and a son-in-law John. Dr. Prickett and his family are active at Gateway Church in Southlake and love being a part of the Southlake community.