Sports Health Conditions: Concussion

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury which causes a physiological disturbance in brain function.

A concussion can be caused by a direct or indirect blow to the head that reaches the brain or a direct blow to the body causing a bio mechanical force imparted to the brain. There are many ways to get a concussion. Some common ways include fights, falls, playground injuries, car crashes, and bike accidents. Concussions can also happen while participating in any sport or activity such as football, boxing, hockey, soccer, skiing, or snowboarding.

A person may still suffer a concussion without the loss of consciousness. Symptoms may not be obvious, some people will have obvious symptoms of a concussion, such as passing out or forgetting what happened right before the injury, but other people won't. Symptoms can develop within 24 to 48 hours.

It's important to know that initially after a concussion the brain is more sensitive to damage. So while you are recovering, be sure to avoid activities that might injure you again.

Sideline Evaluation

A Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) or other licensed healthcare provider will evaluate the athlete at the time of injury.

Once concussion has been determined, no athlete shall return to play the same day the injury has occurred, regardless of symptom resolution or return to normal test results.

Home Instructions

The athlete should be closely monitored by their parent/guardian for at least 24 hours after the injury and avoid activities. If you have any questions or concerns, you may contact your athletic trainer or primary care physician.

If any “Red Flag’ symptoms are observed, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY. These include:

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Decreased responsiveness

  • Repeated vomiting

  • Balance Issues

  • Convulsions or seizures

  • Unequal pupils

  • Slurred speech

  • Weakness/numbness in arms or legs

Concussion Recovery Process

The athlete will follow the concussion protocol as put forth by Hartford HealthCare in accordance with the Connecticut state law. With this protocol, the athlete is advised to rest for at least two days before beginning to reintegrate low levels of activity. During this time, the athletic trainer may advise the athlete and parent/guardian to be evaluated by a physician if symptoms persist greater than 24 hours and school accommodations is advised.

It should be noted that while all athletes follow the steps of this concussion recovery process, the care plan following concussion is individualized per athlete depending on presentation of injury. No two athletes present with the same injury as no two concussions in an individual athlete present the same.

Follow Up Evaluation

Every athlete is required to complete a return to play if they sustain a head injury and show signs and symptoms of a concussion.

When the athlete returns to school following injury, he/she will follow up with the athletic trainer to report his/her current symptom and history over the course of the school day. This will dictate the day’s care plan.

Return to Learn

Accommodations to the athlete’s academic studies is requested by a physician and facilitated through the school nurse and/or guidance counselor.

Return to Play Protocol

After a period of rest, the gradual return to play protocol can begin under the guidance of the ATC and/or other healthcare provider. It is designed to slowly acclimate the individual back into full physical activity and follow a gradual return play process by exertion.

The criteria to return to full participation in sports:

  • Athlete has returned to a full work load in school without exacerbation of symptoms

  • Athlete has remained symptom free through the completion of gradual return to play program

  • Athlete has gotten written clearance from a medical professional, including athletic trainer

Concussion Specialist

80% of athletes diagnosed with a concussion fully recover within 7-10 days.

For those whose concussion symptoms do not improve within this time frame may benefit from a referral to a physician who specializes in concussion care. There are a number of different trajectories associated with concussions which may lead to a longer recovery and Hartford HealthCare has a number of concussion care specialists to address this prolonged recovery time.

Learn more

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