As the cricket season is in full swing, and many of our young football players are preparing for the football season, it is worth revisiting a very important topic – concussion and the effects it can have on players if not properly managed.
There is increasing awareness and focus amongst health professionals about the adverse effects and impairments after mild traumatic brain injury or concussion. We see evidence of this on the football field – the NRL, Rugby, AFL and the cricket field. The team physio or medic runs onto the pitch/field and carries out an on-field assessment to determine the suitability of the player to continue playing. This generally involves a symptom checklist, examination of mental status, and neurocognitive testing.
What is concussion?
Concussion is a traumatic brain injury, causes by forces to the head, or anywhere on the body which transmits an impulsive force to the head. It causes short-term neurological problems which may develop over hours or days following the injury. As I watch the Boxing Day test series (Australia not doing so well!) it is evident both the Australian and Indian Cricket teams take this very seriously and will assess every player who experiences a knock to the head before resuming play.
Physiotherapists play a pivotal part in diagnosing the symptoms of dizziness, headache, balance and visual disturbances which can be appear with concussion. Understanding the difference between the symptoms of concussion and those due to other problems that may occur at the time of a possible concussion injury such as whiplash and other muscular or joint injuries, requires a thorough and comprehensive examination. There is a risk of 50 percent risk of other musculoskeletal injuries following a concussion. This can include pain, dizziness and headaches coming from the neck (cervical spine). It is also recognized that concussed athletes have increased chance of sustaining an acute muscle or joint injury to the lower limb injury up to 3 months after returning to play compared to their non- concussed teammates.
What to do after suffering a suspected concussion:
Anyone with suspected or confirmed concussion should be in the company of a responsible adult and not be allowed to drive.
Head-injury advice should be given to anyone with concussion and their carers.
They should be advised to avoid alcohol and check medications with their doctor. Specifically, they should avoid aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, sleeping tablets and sedating pain medications.
Once the diagnosis of concussion has been made, immediate management is physical and cognitive rest
It is vital that sports organizations at all levels – amateur and professional take this seriously – protecting our sportsmen, women and our youth. A great resource for more information is available at https://www.concussioninsport.gov.au/