Raising awareness of concussion in grassroots sport
How much do you know about concussion? What is it and how dangerous is it?
Many people think of a concussion as a minor injury. However, a knock to the head can result in a brain injury and injuries can quickly escalate if not treated properly.
Common symptoms of concussion include dizziness, confusion, nausea, difficulty in processing or retaining information, light sensitivity and distorted vision. Some people can also lose consciousness.
Due to a lack of education, many people think concussion occurs ONLY when there has been a loss of consciousness, but studies show that only around 10% of reported concussions involved a loss of consciousness, so it is very important that the other symptoms are treated with respect. It is also important to note that concussion is an evolving injury and symptoms can get progressively worse. Therefore, it is vital to closely monitor anyone who has a suspected concussion.
Identifying concussion in children’s sport
The benefits of encouraging sporting activities amongst children are obvious. Not only are the physical elements a major plus, but team sports also help build relationship skills and a sense of pride and teamwork.
Whilst there is always a risk of injury in sport, these are generally minimal. However, parents or those supervising sport should always be mindful of head injuries, particularly concussion.
In the midst of a game, whilst adrenalin is high, concussions can be particularly difficult to identify, especially as many of the symptoms rely on honesty from the individual affected (which is difficult when they are keen to play on). Therefore, as an adult supervising a game, the general advice should be, “If in doubt, sit it out”.
If you suspect a child has had a knock on the head, remove them from play.
Take the time to let them sit down so you can properly evaluate them. Look out for anything out of the ordinary, such as slurred or slowed speech, dizziness or feelings of nausea. Also, keep in mind that concussive symptoms can appear gradually, so make sure you keep an eye on them for some time after the impact.
Remember, the signs of a concussion include:
- Unsteadiness or imbalance
- Slurred speech
- Blurred or distorted vision
If the child displays any of the symptoms after a blow to the head, you must seek medical attention. They should only be allowed to return to physical activity once a medical professional has given them clearance to do so.
Second Impact Syndrome – the danger of ignoring concussion
It is extremely dangerous to ignore signs of a concussion.
External injuries are easily identified. But you cannot see the brain and therefore, it is very important to seek medical attention if a concussion is suspected.
In the vast majority of cases, a concussion will cause no long-lasting problems, providing that the injured person is allowed to rest and is given appropriate medical attention. However, receiving a further blow to the head whilst still recovering from a previous injury can be dangerous; and in a small percentage of cases, even fatal. This is called Second Impact Syndrome.
The dangers of allowing a child to return to sport following a concussion should not be under-estimated. A few weeks of rest, to ensure that all symptoms have concluded is a very small amount of time in the grand scheme of things.
Action for Brain Injury Week
Hoping to raise awareness about brain injury, national charity Headway holds an annual campaign each year, “Action for Brain Injury Week”. Taking place from 9-15th May in 2016 the theme this year is “Concussion Aware”.
Their website contains extensive advice for those supervising sport, including how to spot concussion in children. You can visit their website and current campaign at https://www.headway.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/concussion-aware/