Concussion, if in doubt sit them out

Playing sport has a range of benefits regarding your health, but also instils discipline and teamwork as well as encouraging social interaction, however there are risks of playing contact sports such as accidents and collisions.

A major result of collisions is concussion, an injury present in rugby, football and hockey. Collisions are unpreventable in contact sports therefore it is vital for everyone involved in contact sports are aware of the dangers of concussion.

At grassroots and amateur level, a medic is not often on standby should something go wrong on the pitch so those involved should make themselves aware of what exactly concussion is and how to treat and spot it.

What is concussion?

Concussion is an injury to the brain which results in a disturbance in the brains function, usually this is caused by a direct blow to the head or a direct hit to the body resulting in a rapid movement of the head.

There are a number of symptoms of concussion and they usually appear rapidly after impact, however their onset can be delayed and appear any time after the injury. The most common symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Memory Loss
  • Lack of balance

Those affected may not always lose consciousness in fact loss of consciousness only occurs in about 10% of concussions. Although concussion can affect anyone children and adolescents:

  • Are more susceptible to brain injury
  • Take longer to recover
  • Have more significant memory & mental processing issues
  • Are more susceptible to rare and dangerous neurological complications.

If any of the signs or symptoms below are present after a player has been injured, they should be removed from play immediately and not return until they have been seen by a medical professional.

In severe cases the player experiences severe neck pain, weakness in their arms or legs, severe headache or repeated vomiting they must be taken to the nearest hospital.

Rest the body: Rest the mind

Following a concussion, rest is the most important part of treatment as it allows not only your body to rest but also the brain to rest cognitively.

Those who have suffered a concussion should not consumer alcohol or drive for at least 24 hours and all sport activities should be avoided until agreed by a doctor.

There are six stages to fully recovering from a concussion before returning, an individual can only progress through the stages if there are no repeat symptoms of concussion, a medical professional will be the one to judge if an individual has passed a stage in recovery.

Whether it is diagnosed, or suspected concussion should be taken seriously at all times. Any head injury can lead to a concussion and with the difficulty in identifying concussion combined with the risk of continuing to play, the message is clear if in doubt, sit them out.

Head of Sports Science and Medicine at Lincoln City FC, Mike Hine, explains how he and the team at Lincoln prepare and train to treat concussion to the best of their ability.

“Concussion in sport is hugely under the spotlight at the moment, with high profile incidents taking place across the sporting world in the last few years.

“Knowing that my management of a potential concussion injury could be fatal if the correct steps are not taken is quite scary and ensures that I keep my first aid training and skills up-to-date.

“At Lincoln City FC, we often practise our spinal manoeuvres, meet with the club’s match day paramedics and attend external first aid course to ensure we can provide a safe environment for our players, should they sustain a major head injury.”

During his time at Lincoln Mike and the team have had to deal with head injuries, his most difficult dealing with concussion came at an away game with Lincoln.

“One of the toughest dealings with head injury for myself was when one of our players got knocked unconscious in an away game. One of our players insisted he was unconscious, even though I could not be sure by time I arrived to the player.

“Our goalkeeper clattered him in the first 15 mins and the player in question had no idea that he had been knocked out, we trusted that our other player had made the right call in that it was actually a KO.

“He insisted he felt fine and was going to carry on. Remaining strong in those scenarios is important and, on this occasion, the player eventually, begrudgingly, began walking round the pitch, back to the dugout with me.

“Once we got back to the dugout, he began asking questions relating to the score and who scored etc. at that point I was heavily re-assured that the right decision had been made.

“He then was assessed further by the opposition team’s doctor. This scenario is a fine example of there being no real ‘clear-cut’ 100% confirmation of concussion or not, but the morale of the story is ‘if in doubt, sit them out’. Remember, head injuries can be fatal.”

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