WHAT IS A CONCUSSION?
A concussion, also known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), is a brain injury that may be caused either by a direct blow to the head, face, neck or elsewhere on the body with an ‘‘impulsive’ force transmitted to the head. Since a concussion changes the way the brain functions, it typically causes some degree of cognitive impairment, which may affect the way the athlete feels, thinks, experiences emotion, sleeps, or his/her energy level. Most concussions are self-limited with symptom resolution within one week, however, a growing amount of data is now establishing significant future consequences from even minor impacts such as headaches, prolonged cognitive impairments, or even death. Read about common myths about concussions.
HOW COMMON ARE CONCUSSIONS?
Including unreported cases, there are an estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million TBIs related to sports and recreation activities each year in the United States, although the true incidence may be much higher. Under-reporting may be due to the fact that athletes, coaches, trainers, family and even some health care professionals are unaware of the symptoms and treatment options for concussion. In addition, athletes who experience concussion sometimes fail to report their symptoms to avoid losing playing time. Read the guidelines to manage a suspected concussion.
KNOW THE RISKS
Roller derby athletes, by the nature of the sport, have an increased risk of concussion. Although concussions are not 100% preventable, the combination of education, technology and enforcement has been proven to decrease the risk of a concussion in athletes. Teams must engage in the active education of all athletes, officials, coaches and parents involved in their organization. In addition, teams should also formalize processes and organizational structures to help in the enforcement and management of concussions, and they should also encourage their members to wear and maintain their equipment properly. Convince your team to engage in concussion management.
RECOVERING FROM A CONCUSSION
Rest is very important after a concussion because it helps the brain heal. Athletes may need to limit physical and mental activities while recovering from a concussion. Physical activities or activities that involve concentration, such as studying, working on the computer, or playing video games may cause concussion symptoms (such as headache or tiredness) to come back or get worse. After a concussion, physical and cognitive activities should be carefully watched by a medical provider. As the days go by, the athlete can expect to slowly feel better. Learn the signs, symptoms and red flags of a concussion.
BACK TO SKATING
After a concussion, an athlete should only return to sports practices with the approval and under the supervision of a health care provider after following the return to play protocol. When available, they should also work closely with your team’s certified athletic trainer. Adopt the return to play protocol.