Contact sports are just that – full of contact – but sometimes the head cops the brunt following a collision. And while our noggins are pretty tough, if we’re hit the wrong way or a little too hard, we could end up with a concussion. But what does that mean for players?
The football codes have the highest rates of concussion in sport – rugby league, rugby union and AFL – but you’ll also find they occur often enough in netball, soccer, cricket, martial arts and horse riding. And while it appears most of our professional sporting codes are now monitoring concussions, it’s really not clear how many are actually occurring in community sports. But we do know that concussion is more common in children than in any other age group.
WHAT IS A CONCUSSION?
The Mayo Clinic defines concussion as a traumatic brain injury that alters the way the brain functions. And although concussions are usually caused by a blow to the head, they can also occur when the head and upper body are violently shaken. These injuries can cause a loss of consciousness, although this isn’t common. And because the signs are not always obvious, some people will have a concussion and not realise it.
Those with severe concussion have a higher risk of injury or repeated concussion on return to play and could suffer depression and other mental health issues, along with long-term damage to the brain. Severe brain swelling can also occur, particularly in younger players.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO RECOVER?
Every concussion injures the brain to some extent, which then needs time and rest to heal properly. Luckily, most of these brain injuries are mild and people usually recover fully.
The process of recovery varies from person to person and injury to injury. In about 80-90 per cent of people, recovery occurs within 10-14 days of injury. However, in others, recovery can take weeks or even months. It’s important to ensure a player does not return to play before they have fully recovered. That is why it is necessary to recognise the signs of a concussion so that the player is kept from training and competition.
HOW TO RECOGNISE A CONCUSSION
You can’t physically see a concussion, but there are signs. If you’re worried someone may be affected by concussion, consider the following.
Symptoms reported by the player
- Headache or ‘pressure’ in head that gets worse over time
- Nausea or vomiting
- Problems with balance or dizziness
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light and/or noise
- Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
- Concentration or memory problems
- Just not ‘feeling right’ or ‘feeling blue’
Signs observed by parents/guardians, other players etc
- Appears dazed or stunned
- Confusion or disorientation, such as difficulty recognising people or places
- Forgets an instruction
- Is unsure of the game, score or opponent
- Changes in physical coordination, such as stumbling or clumsiness
- Answers questions slowly or has slurred speech
- Loses consciousness (even briefly)
- Shows mood, behaviour or personality changes, such as irritability
- Large head bumps or bruises on areas other than the forehead in children
If a player is experiencing severe symptoms, they should be taken straight to emergency. If symptoms appear mild over 1-2 days, then the player should visit their GP for examination. Children should seek medical attention after any head trauma. Experts recommend that anyone with a suspected concussion not return to play while any signs or symptoms of a concussion are present.
What are your thoughts on concussion in sport, especially among younger players? Share your opinion in the comments section below.