Dangerous Play

It’s finally fall, and in Georgia, that means football season is well underway. Unfortunately, though, it’s nearly impossible to think about football and not think about concussions, too.

That’s because every year nearly 3.8 million concussions are sustained by Americans of all ages, more than half of which are found in children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 18. Even more staggering is the fact that 1 in 5 high school athletes will sustain a sports-related concussion during the season—practice included.

As these statistics continue to rise, it’s more important than ever to ensure that concussions are identified quickly and evaluation and treatment are implemented.

To provide better understanding of concussions, two experienced neuropsychologists from Gwinnett Medical Center’s Concussion Institute, Adam Shunk, PhD, and David Schwartz, PhD, explain, step-by-step, how to take action when a concussion occurs.

Step One: Rule out a more serious injury.

It’s important to monitor a person after a head injury to rule out symptoms that could indicate a more serious injury. With a concussion there are some symptoms you can expect to see, including:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Fogginess
  • Difficulty Balancing

Severe symptoms, like those listed below, or worsening symptoms are not common signs of a concussion and could indicate a more serious injury.

  • Worsening Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • Confusion or Behavior Changes
  • Eye Disturbances (e.g., inactive pupils, unresponsive eyes)

If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical care promptly. The best place to start is the emergency room to ensure that care and evaluation are immediate since many of these symptoms can be signs of a concussion or a more severe brain injury.

Step Two: Get an expert opinion.

Concussions vary for each individual, so it’s important to have expert guidance on how to properly treat and manage a concussion in the safest and most effective way possible. Working with neuro psychologists, like Dr. Shunk and Dr. Schwartz, will assure a thorough, customized treatment plan.

Before a treatment plan is implemented, an assessment is done to test balance and ocular-motor skills (eye movement and responsiveness), neurocognitive testing, an in-depth interview and sometimes even supervised exertion testing.

Once the evaluation is complete, a personalized treatment plan will be prescribed. Each plan varies in length of time and can include multiple types of treatment, such as vestibular therapy and headache management, as well as basic things, like appropriate sleep, hydration, proper nutrition, personal hygiene, and activity.

Step Three: Forget the common myths.

Unfortunately, many people still believe and practice common myths associated with concussions, including not allowing sleep, minimizing stimulation and avoiding physical activity; however, these are not entirely accurate.

When it comes to caring for a concussion, ample rest is usually best because sleep supports the brains healing process. However, once symptoms improve, gradually transitioning back to normal activities as tolerated and even starting some light exercise can also help the healing process.

Step Four: Prepare for a concussion.

No one wants to sustain a concussion, but being prepared in the event that one occurs can help prevent complications. To be prepared, utilize resources like baseline concussion testing to ensure faster, more accurate care in the event that a concussion occurs.

People who sustain a concussion should make sure to receive the best care possible. GMC’s Concussion Institute is equipped with the most advanced treatment options, some of the area’s top experts and an extensive range of concussion resources, to ensure you receive customized care without compromise.

To learn more about how GMC is revolutionizing concussion care, visit GwinnettMedicalCenter.org/concussion.