Concussions, although widely-discussed, are still one of the most concerning injuries in all of high-school sports. Soccer is often thought of as a ‘low-risk’ sport for concussions, but studies are starting to reveal that concussions, also known as “Mild Traumatic Brain Injury”, may be more prevalent then previously thought.
With that being the case, it’s vital that parents, coaches, and even spectators are more aware of exactly what a concussion is, and the strategies for recognizing concussion symptoms.
What exactly is a concussion?
There are a variety of myths and misconceptions surrounding concussions, but the Mayo Clinc defines a concussion as, “a traumatic brain injury that affects your brain function. Effects are usually temporary but can include headaches and problems with concentration, memory, balance and coordination,”.
The important thing to remember is that concussions exist on a spectrum, so some concussions can be significantly worse than others. All concussions should be taken seriously due to the dangers of suffering a secondary and more traumatic concussion if play is resumed too early, also known as, “Second-impact Syndrome”.
The NCAA’s listed symptoms of concussions are as follows:
– Loss of consciousness
– Balance problems
– Double or fuzzy vision
– Sensitivity to light or noise
– Feeling sluggish
– Concentration or memory problems
– Slowed reaction time
– Feeling unusually irritable
How to test for signs of concussions:
There are some instances (when a player is knocked unconscious) that removal from play is an obvious step. Other times, it can be harder to tell just how bad a hit to the head may have been. While trusting your athlete to know when they need to come off the field or not is important, being able to recognize the symptoms and step-in is something that every parent or coach should be prepared to do.
Luckily, there are two basic types of tests that can easily be administered on the sideline: Neurological or Cognitive. Athletes suspected of suffering a concussion should be run through multiple tests on the sideline before a decision is made whether they can enter competition again.
Common Neurological tests:
- Vision: Follow the finger – Athletes who’ve suffered a concussion may struggle to focus on a single object in motion. Pupil dilation, and reaction to light are also common vision tests. Athletes who’ve suffered a concussion are often more sensitive to light and their pupils may not evenly/appropriately dilate.
- Balance: Standing on one leg – Being able to balance on each leg individually for 20 seconds.
Common Cognitive tests:
- Memory: Easy questions like, “What year is it?”, “Where are you?”, “Who is the President?” serve as good indicators of potential trauma. Note, not only the answer, but the amount of time it takes for the suspected athlete to answer.
- Concentration: Say the first color you think of when I say… “Sky”, “Grass”, “Snow”, “Pumpkin”. This tests both response time, and concentration, which can both be affected by minor or major concussions.
Although you should always let athletic trainers and medical staff that may be present at the practice or game take the lead, knowing how to recognize concussions and properly react to a potential concussion never hurt anyone’s safety.
Stay tuned, because we’ll be covering more myths that surround concussions, and the decisions or gear that can help you to play your best and safest game.