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Student Athletes and Concussions: A Serious Matter

Many students each year choose to participate in a school sport. While there are many benefits associated with getting involved, engaging in a sport is not without risk of injury. One of the most common sports injuries experienced is a concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI). A concussion is a disruption in the function of the brain as a result of a forceful blow to the head, either direct or indirect, and can range from minor to very severe. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 135,000 sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, are treated in U.S. emergency departments each year. Although most people tend to associate concussions with football, they can occur in any sport or recreation activity that has a higher frequency of collisions (e.g. ice hockey, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and wrestling).

When a person experiences a concussion it results in a set of physical, cognitive emotional, and/or sleep-related symptoms. Concussions can occur even when the athlete has no loss of consciousness. Duration of symptoms is highly variable and may last from several minutes to days, weeks, months, or even longer in some cases. Parents, coaches, and student athletes need to learn concussion signs and symptoms and what to do if a concussion occurs.

Below are a few things parents and coaches should look for if they think a student athlete has suffered a concussion:

  1. Appears dazed or stunned
  2. Forgets plays or current activities
  3. Is unsure of recent events (game, score, or opponent)
  4. Can’t recall events before or after the blow

In addition, if the student athlete reports any of the following after a sport-related blow, they may have suffered a concussion, and need to consult with a medical professional:

  1. Double or fuzzy vision
  2. Confusion
  3. Balance problems or dizziness
  4. Feeling sluggish or slowed down

If your child displays any signs and symptoms of a possible concussion or mild traumatic brain injury, it is important to contact a physician or a clinician as soon as possible. Research shows that if an injured athlete returns to the game and to schoolwork before they are fully recovered, it can have serious long term effects. A medical professional, like those in the Children’s National Safe Concussion Outcome Recovery and Education (SCORE) program, can help you and your child athlete determine when and if it’s time to get back into the game and get back to school.

The professionals at the SCORE program, including Gerard Gioia, PhD, and Christopher Vaughan, PsyD, are available to help by providing appropriate evaluation, treatment, and concussion management. There are also many resources for parents, coaches, and athletic trainers at the SCORE program. To schedule an appointment at SCORE, call Katea Selby, the senior coordinator at (202) 476-2429.