Medical Moment: Sports concussions

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 4:06 PM EDT
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(WNDU) - Thousands of kids go to the hospital every year for concussions. Not having proper treatment for a concussion can lead to lasting health problems.

A concussion doesn’t show up on imaging like an X-ray, CT, or MRI scan and there is no objective test, like drawing blood or saliva, that can determine if a patient has a concussion. Therefore, the signs and symptoms of a concussion are extremely important to recognize and diagnose.

A doctor makes a diagnosis based on the results of a comprehensive examination, which includes observing signs of concussion and patients reporting symptoms of concussion appearing after an impact to the head or body.

Concussion signs and symptoms are the brain’s way of showing it is injured and not functioning normally. Some common signs and symptoms include loss of consciousness; problems with balance; glazed look in the eyes; delayed response to questions; forgetting an instruction, confusion about an assignment or position, or confusion of the game, score, or opponent; or vomiting.

Concussion symptoms fall into four major categories: physical symptoms such as headache or dizziness; cognitive symptoms like memory problems or difficulty multitasking; sleep symptoms such as sleeping more than usual or having trouble falling asleep; and emotional symptoms such as anxiety or depression

Experts say half of severe head injuries go unreported or undetected.

“I went in to head it and just kind of a guy got on the other side and hit me and yeah, I could feel it right away,” Maguire recalled.

But after a quick assessment by the athletic trainer...

“I went back into the game, which is probably not a good idea,” Maguire said.

Most people with concussions will have symptoms immediately after a blow or bump to the head. But like Charles...

“We can see a delay in symptoms. It’s actually quite common in athletes. Their adrenaline is going. They are in the zone and then after the game, their adrenaline starts to decline and they will start to feel symptoms,” said Elizabeth Pieroth, PsyD, ABPP, and the MPH Director of the Concussion Program at the Midwest Orthopedics at Rush.

One of the biggest misconceptions about concussions is that someone will always lose consciousness.

“Only about nine to ten percent of concussions result in a loss of consciousness,” Dr. Pieroth continued.

What parents and coaches should look out for instead is whether they are off balance when they get up, do they look confused, are they slow to respond. They should also be concerned if the teen says they have a headache, feel dizzy or nauseous, have a sensitivity to light and sound, or they feel foggy. And if there’s any doubt, sit them out.

“We want to teach kids to play smart,” Dr. Pieroth finished.

You only have one brain, and you can’t mess it up!

A non-invasive hypothermic therapy device intended to decrease the severity of concussion symptoms and help patients get back to their pre-injury baseline, is the first-ever FDA-approved medical device treatment for concussions.

Hypothermic therapy is a non-invasive treatment for concussion, in which the head or body is cooled below normal body temperature.

Researchers have observed, in using this device, significant improvements in clinical outcomes through the cooling of the brain within eight days of the concussion. This device is in the final stage of completing a large multi-site clinical trial designed to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of the therapy.

While the initial aim of the treatment device is to help the unfulfilled medical needs of athletes, the company hopes to expand to other populations that may help people who suffer concussions caused by motor vehicle accidents, falls, or military service.

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