Concussion Prevention In the Pre-Season

Injured hockey player

Back to school season is here! And that means it’s time to gear up for fall sports. Most teams are already in the midst of pre-season training, and there’s no better time to think about protecting your child’s brain. We know that sports-related concussions (SRCs) are on the rise (1). What can parents do to prepare for the sports season ahead? Is there anything you can do now to protect your child? Let’s take a few minutes to review the essentials of concussion prevention. 

 

Take necessary precautions

Concussion prevention has come a long way in recent years. Coaches and athletic trainers have a better working knowledge of prevention tactics and symptom awareness. Proper technique, especially when it comes to tackling, is one of the best ways to prevent unnecessary contact.  For contact sports, ensure that your child has a well fitted helmet that’s specific to their sport. There are certainly no concussion proof helmets, but it’s an affordable first layer of defense. New research is investigating the link between neck strength and concussion rates (1), and it is worth discussing with your athlete’s coaching staff. Overall strengthening of the neck and core provides stability and can prevent injury. While there isn’t a foolproof way to prevent a concussion, the above tips are attainable ways to mitigate risk. 

 

Take a look at the brain, pre-injury

Get a baseline. A baseline is a series of tests designed to capture an athlete’s current neurological capabilities. They are used to establish an individual’s “normal”. If an athlete receives a concussion later in the season, the baseline testing is repeated to identify the changed functionality. Your child may be required to take a school-administered neurocognitive test (such as the IMPACT) in order to play. These traditional tests are often focused on assessing the athlete’s cognitive abilities, and do not identify specific areas of poor brain function. 

Innova’s baselines go beyond cognitive assessment.  Our testing includes specialized diagnostics that provide an encompassing picture of your child’s brain through a functional assessment.  With equipment not typically found in traditional rehab offices, such as video-oculography and computerized dynamic posturography, our testing studies multiple areas of the brain by assessing the athlete’s eye movements, vestibular system (balance and coordination), cognitive skills, and more. With a full picture of your child’s pre-season brain health, we are better equipped to identify an injury, leading to more specific rehabilitation and faster recovery times. 

 

Learn how to identify a concussion

It’s important to familiarize yourself with symptoms and warning signs, especially because concussions may occur from seemingly insignificant impact with another player or the ground. Your child does not need to have blacked out or lose his/her memory to be concussed. Moreover, concussion symptoms may develop over a few days following the impact, even though there were no immediate symptoms.  It is important to stay alert to even the slightest changes in behavior. Here is a list of some of the more common concussion symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Brain fog
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Fatigue
  • Increased irritability
  • Stomach aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to sleep or excessive sleep

If you suspect a concussion, contact a medical professional immediately. Err on the side of caution. The following symptoms warrant a trip to the emergency room: 

  • Lost consciousness
  • Very intense headache with vomiting
  • In a stupor
  • Numbness
  • Slurred speech
  • Erratic eye movement and/or pupils differing in size

 

Treating a concussion

The majority of concussions clear up on their own. If your athlete continues to experience symptoms after 30 days, it is time to contact Innova Brain. We specialize in lingering concussion symptoms. Read more about our unique concussion treatment and call the office to schedule a complimentary consultation. 

 

Resources: 

 

  1. Toninato J, Casey H, Uppal M, et al. Traumatic brain injury reduction in athletes by neck strengthening (TRAIN). Contemp Clin Trials Commun. 2018;11:102–106. Published 2018 Jun 21. doi:10.1016/j.conctc.2018.06.007

 

Further reading: 

 

Heads Up to Youth Sports – Parents, Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This CDC website is specifically designed for parents’ concussion education. We highly recommend this as further reading.

Mannix R, Meehan WP 3rd, Pascual-Leone A. Sports-related concussions – media, science and policy. Nat Rev Neurol. 2016;12(8):486–490. doi:10.1038/nrneurol.2016.99

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Leslie Petsoff

Leslie Petsoff

Leslie, Patient Care Coordinator