Concussions remain common



A concussion is a minor traumatic brain injury that may occur when the head hits an object or a moving object strikes the head. A concussion is usually caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body that affects how the brain functions.

Even with all the advances in protective gear, they are still very common — somewhere between 3 and 4 million injuries occur every year in the United States. They are most common in children and adolescents, as well as adults age 65 and older. The rates of concussion are higher for males than females.

Concussions can occur in any sport. They very commonly occur in contact sports such as football, rugby, soccer and baseball, as well as other noncontact sports such as volleyball and basketball. These are serious injuries and can have lasting consequences on mental function and, in certain cases, result in severe disability or even death.

Early symptoms of a concussion usually include headache, nausea or vomiting, and balance problems, as well as vision disturbances. Later symptoms may include memory problems, confusion and difficulty paying attention, as well as feeling sluggish or foggy.

Recovery time varies widely and is dependent on the severity of the injury. This is one of the important reasons to have these injuries checked out by

a qualified medical professional. This is also one of the reasons why there is no set limit on how many concussions an athlete can incur and still be allowed to return to play.

Currently, there are no helmets or devices that have been shown to decrease the risk of sustaining a concussion, and treatment revolves around prevention and early intervention. Millions of dollars of research are currently going into development of these technologies.

Once you have recovered from a concussion, there are specific guidelines that must be followed prior to returning to athletic activity.

These involve a gradually increasing activity level, while ensuring that concussion symptoms do not return.

In 2009, Washington was the first state to enact a concussion in sports law — the Zackery Lystedt Law. There are now 43 states which have laws addressing concussions and sports for youth.

Washington law requires that:

  1. An informed consent form must be signed by parents and youth athletes acknowledging the risk of head injury prior to practice or competition

  2. A youth athlete who is suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury must be removed from play — “when in doubt, sit them out”

  3. A youth athlete who has been removed from play must receive written clearance from a licensed health care provider prior to returning to play

It is important for young athletes, coaches and parents to recognize symptoms of a concussion and realize that it is important to have a head injury checked out and appropriately treated before returning to play.

Dr. Aaron Anderson completed his fellowship in Sports Medicine at Boise State University with the Idaho Sports Medicine Institute and practices at The Vancouver Clinic.