Concussions and the Prevention of Second Impact Syndrome

The topic of youth and professional sports-related concussions has been making the news recently. In Pennsylvania, legislation was recently passed that establishes standards for managing concussions and other brain injuries among student athletes.

Why is so much attention being focused on this topic? Concussions are serious injuries: in fact, they are considered to be a mild form of traumatic brain injury. If someone returns to activity before their symptoms are resolved and experiences another head injury, the effects can be compounded, leading to what is known as Second Impact Syndrome. This medical emergency involves rapid brain swelling and can lead to serious long-term effects – even death.

The first step to preventing Second Impact Syndrome is recognizing that you or someone you know has suffered a concussion. Symptoms range from mild to severe and typically appear within the first few days to a few weeks after the injury. Symptoms of a concussion can include:

• Headaches
• Confusion
• Memory loss
• Nausea or vomiting
• Disruption in vision
• Decreased concentration
• Loss of consciousness
• Sluggishness or clumsiness

The presence of any of these symptoms following a head injury requires removal from play and immediate evaluation by a medical professional. Often, student athletes can exacerbate the situation following a head injury by not reporting their symptoms or by minimizing them because they want to continue to play. That is why it is imperative for coaches and parents to be educated about concussions and to encourage children and teens to come forward when they have experienced an injury.

One helpful tool used by medical professionals in the evaluation and prevention of concussion involves baseline testing. This testing is performed before the sports season to chart brain activity, including memory, concentration and response time. After a suspected concussion, the athlete takes the same test and the results are compared to the baseline to determine when the athlete has recovered and can return to play.

At Good Shepherd, employees are committed to being leaders in the field of rehabilitation, including the management of concussions. Good Shepherd is a credentialed consultant with the ImPACT program. Developed by the University of Pittsburgh Sports Medicine Program, ImPACT is a computerized concussion evaluation tool used to assess cognitive functions commonly affected by a concussion. The tool also helps manage the recovery process. Learn more here.

While it is impossible to prevent the occurrence of sports-related concussions, there are ways to properly detect, report and manage their occurrence. Our greatest weapon is improved education and awareness. Understanding the initial symptoms and responding appropriately will not only keep athletes on the field longer, but may also save lives.

Learn more about the treatment of concussions at Good Shepherd here.

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