It’s Just A Little Ding On The Head

Concussion.  In our sport?  It’s just a little ding on the head.   That little ‘ding’ might be a whole lot more.  We normally associate concussions with sports that have a little more violence like hockey or football.  But research demonstrates that there doesn’t necessarily need to be a severe crashing of the head, to be concussed.

‘A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth.’  as defined by the CDC, or Centers for Disease Control.  

The best way to think of this, is your brain is housed in your skull, surrounded by fluid.  The fluid is supports and reduces the movement of the brain, so the brain doesn’t bang into the skull.  And yet, if the motion or trauma to the head is severe enough, to impede normal function, a concussion has occurred.  The bump could be as simple as misjudging the distance to the wall while swimming backstroke, or as complicated as banging your head after falling from your bike, or tripping during a run.

So, how do you determine if you or your athletes, or your training partners have a concussions?  Did she bang her head?  Did she incur a jarring of her head, like a whip-lash effect?

  • Ascertain what happened.
  • Is it safe to move the participant?
  •  Determine ABCs– airway, breathing and circulation.
  • What is the cervical spine status?
  • Do you need emergency transport?
  •  If the person is concious, look for signs of brain injury.
  • Ask the participant questions about orientation, like the time, the date, where she is, what she is doing.
  • Ask for symptoms:  how severe is your headache on a scale of one to ten.  (An athlete will deny a headache or other pain).  The severity of the symptoms will correlate to the recovery.

Signs of a concussion include:

  • Possible loss of consiousness
  • Loss of Balance
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • One or both eyes dilated
  • Inappropriate answers to question:  for example: what day is it?   Answer:  february.

Symptoms include:

  • Headache  — ask how bad is your headache?
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Amnesia
  • Nausea
  • Intolerance to bright light and/or loud noises
  • Ringing in ears
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Poor attention

An athlete that has suffered from a concussion needs time for the brain to heal.  Normal activities may seem labored.  Cognitive exercises may be challenging, or require a great deal of focus that the injured does not have.  Part of the healing process may require removal not only from athletic practice, but also academic or other work.  This can be a time period of seven days to three or more months, depending on the severity.  This should be determined with the direction of a physician.

Helmets have shown to be beneficial in minimizing some concussions.  The helmet absorbs and disperses the shock wave to the head.  The result may influence the force that impacts the brain.  In cycling, we must ALWAYS wear a helmet.  This is not only to prevent a concussion but to also protect our skull in a fall.

All injuries may not be preventable, but hopefully by increasing our awareness of the dangers associated with our sport(s), we can minimize these injuries.  A bump to the head cannot always be prevented.  I trust this will help us recognize some of the signs and symptoms that might have been previously dismissed.

As always, be careful out there.

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