The long-term effects of concussions have made headlines in the past few years. The aftereffects range from trouble concentrating to severe mood swings and drastic changes in personality. I know when I was playing sports in school, the last thing I was thinking about was how a blow to the head was going to affect me, in the long run, I was just worried about getting back in the game.
A concussion is considered a traumatic brain injury and disrupts the brain’s usual function. Concussions can occur on and off the field, so it’s important to know how to react.
Take a Time-Out. After getting knocked in the head, your first reaction should not be to rush back into the game. If your brain doesn’t have time to completely heal after the initial impact, you are far more likely to suffer a second, more severe injury if you’re hit again.
A second hit, no matter how seemingly minor, could result in what is known as “second impact syndrome.” This can cause the brain to swell, possibly leading to coma or even death.
If I haven’t made my point, concussions shouldn’t be “shaken off.” In the event of a blow to the head, hit the bench for the rest of the game or practice. Even if it seemed like a minor hit, the brain has to have the time to heal before it’s safe to get back out there.
Seek Medical Help. If you endure a concussion in a situation where a team doctor isn’t present, it’s best to head to the hospital. A doctor can assess the severity of the concussion, check for symptoms and triggers, and give you next steps for recovering safely.
Give Your Brain a Break. Just like any other part of the body, your brain needs rest in order to recover. Activities such as texting, playing video games, watching TV, working on the computer, and reading, can all overstimulate your brain.
Notify your employer or teachers of your condition, and make arrangements to manage your workload during recovery. You should take frequent breaks when working or studying and spread tasks out over a longer period of time than normal.
Whenever one of my players is recovering from a concussion their teachers receive a note that requests they be excused from or given extra time to complete their assignments. They may even receive a program that reads to them, or they will have an assistant read to them, if necessary.
Get Some Rest. This means refraining from strenuous activities and logging plenty of sleep. Your body can’t heal itself if it’s constantly on the go. Don’t engage in rigorous activities that dramatically increase your heart rate unless you’ve been cleared by your doctor.
Get at least eight hours of sleep per night, preferably more. Try to fall asleep without any stimulating noises or lights around. Turn off your music or the television, and close the blinds to keep any outside light out of the room.
Don’t Rush It. Working with sports teams, I deal with concussions all the time. My players don’t get back on the field until they are completely symptom-free. Take the same caution with yourself or your child. If you have any doubts at all about the recovery process, talk to your doctor. Concussions should never be taken lightly.
Click here for more blogs by Dr. Victor Romano.