A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump or blow to the head that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. This fast movement can cause the brain to bounce or twist in the skull resulting in chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells.
“Concussions are difficult to accurately diagnose due to the varying signs and symptoms of the injury,” shares Dr. James Tucker, Family Medicine physician at Hannibal Regional Medical Group. If your athlete becomes injured during practice or a game and begins acting dazed or stunned, moves clumsily, answers questions slowly, loses consciousness (even briefly) or can’t recall events prior or after the hit or fall it is time to seek the care of a healthcare professional. “If it is a possibility your child has sustained a concussion during a game, they should be removed from play and get evaluated by a medical professional,” notes Dr. Tucker. “The athlete should remain out of play on the day of the injury and should only return with permission from a healthcare professional.”
“One of parents’ most common questions is when to seek emergency care. Emergency care should be sought if the person develops a severe headache, amnesia of 30 minutes or longer prior to the episode, altered alertness, confusion, seizure, changes to movement or sensation in any part of their body, bruising around eyes or ears, concerns for a fracture of the skull, persistent vomiting, or if they are using a blood thinner,” shares Dr. Tucker.
Repetitive head trauma is increasingly dangerous so early identification can have long term benefits. To help prevent concussions on the field make sure your child follows the rules their coach sets for safety and the rules of the game. Make sure athletes are wearing protective equipment that is well maintained and fits properly. “Wearing a helmet does help reduce the risk of serious brain injury or a skull fracture,” says Dr. Tucker. “However, there is not a helmet that can totally prevent concussions. Even with a helmet, it is important for athletes to try their best to avoid hits to their head. Proper technique should be instructed before full contact drills or practice.” Healing from a concussion takes time, along with mental and physical rest. Each person recovers at a different pace and should follow a gradual return to play and return to school process.
“If available, baseline testing before the season is a great way for healthcare professionals to determine the severity of a suspected concussion,” says Dr. Tucker. Baseline testing is used to assess the athlete’s balance and brain function and is compared to post-injury results to help identify the effects of the injury. To maintain the best results for comparison, baseline testing should be completed annually.
To contact Dr. Tucker’s office call (573) 629-3500.