The brain controls almost all of the body’s functions, but it’s soft and fragile. The skull protects the brain on all sides from outside damage. However, a sudden impact to the head could cause the skull to injure the very thing it’s designed to protect. This is how concussions happen. 

A concussion is caused by a direct or indirect blow to the head or body. While we used to think of a concussion as being “knocked out,” or losing consciousness, we now understand it as any injury to a person’s brain, even if it’s mild. Even a brief change in your mental function constitutes a brain injury that requires monitoring and protection. 

A concussion from a direct blow can occur after contact with another player during an athletic event, the head making contact with a hard surface (like the ground, gym floor or ice) or being hit with a piece of athletic equipment. Indirect forces that cause concussions include mechanisms such as whiplash. Sudden speeding up or slowing down of the head during events like a car crash or while being violently shaken also causes concussions. 

Concussions tend to occur most often in contact sports like football, ice hockey and lacrosse, and they can also happen in basketball, soccer and wrestling. 

Symptoms of Concussion

How can you tell if you have sustained a concussion? Some concussion signs and symptoms are immediate and warrant a trip to the emergency room for further evaluation and treatment. These symptoms include but are not limited to:  

  • Temporary unconsciousness 
  • Repeated vomiting  
  • Dilated or unequal pupils  
  • Seizures 

Sometimes symptoms appear more slowly, making them more difficult to recognize. These vary depending on the person and affect people in four areas of function: 

  • Physical: Symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and fatigue. 
  • Thinking, Memory and Concentration: Signs of concussion include asking repetitive questions, responding to questions at a slower rate than normal and confusion. 
  • Emotions: Symptoms include enhanced feelings of anger, sadness or general mood swings. 
  • Sleep: An athlete with a concussion may have trouble falling asleep or sleep too much, which may cause an increased sense of fatigue. 

If you think you may have sustained a concussion, schedule an appointment with a Sports Medicine doctor that has experience in concussion treatment and diagnosis for testing. During a concussion test, you will undergo strength, balance and memory testing. Athletes who are involved with a school team will also undergo a neurological screening called the ImPACT test.  

Concussion Treatment

If you are diagnosed with a concussion, it’s important that you are removed from play and other athletic activities immediately and do not return to play until a qualified healthcare professional clears you. 

The most important treatment after a concussion is to rest as much as possible. The recovery time for a concussion will vary from person to person, but there are a few lifestyle changes you can make to help your brain heal: 

  • Limiting screen time on your cell phone, TV, video games or computer 
  • Avoiding loud or bright environments 
  • Sleeping and taking breaks while working on homework or other work 

Being bored is the best thing to experience during your concussion recovery, because that means you are adequately resting your brain. 

When you start to feel better and notice minimal concussion symptoms, you will need to go through an extensive return to play protocol. You must be without symptoms of concussion for 24 hours before beginning the day-by-day return to play process. The return to play guidelines for athletes consist of passing the ImPACT test, and then completing the following five-step graduated increase of activity, one day at a time:  

  1. 15 minutes of light aerobic activity (jogging or biking)
  2. 45 minutes of more strenuous activity without equipment 
  3. Non-contact drills in equipment 
  4. Full practice 
  5. Gameplay 

If any symptoms of concussion reappear at any point during the return to play process, you must wait until the symptoms subside for 24 hours and begin the protocol again. 

Preventing Concussions

Unfortunately, there is no surefire method of concussion prevention, but there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of sustaining a concussion. Proper fitting of your athletic equipment, such as helmets or other protective headgear, can help reduce the risk of concussion, but cannot entirely prevent a concussion altogether.  

It is also important for athletes to follow proper technique for sports, such as not leading with the head, or making sure they jump straight up for a header in soccer. A common trend is for athletes to wear concussion headbands that potentially reduce the force of impacts. There is currently not enough evidence to support this claim; however, athletes may find the use of the concussion headband beneficial.  

How Sauk Prairie Healthcare Treats Concussions

At Sauk Prairie Healthcare, we strive to treat your concussion as a unique situation to make sure you can safely recover and return to play. 

Our Sports Medicine doctors in Sauk Prairie, Lodi and Spring Green treat all kinds of sports injuries, including concussions. These doctors work with your high school’s certified athletic trainers for complete care until you are ready to return to play. 

Our Sports Medicine Physicians:
Masaru Furukawa, MD, MS
David Krey, DO
Mark Timmerman, MD

To schedule an appointment with a Sports Medicine physician, call 608-643-7677.