Concussion

An interest of mine of late is surrounding Concussions — prevention, occurrence & treatment. They happen. On the hill. From a fall. From a motor vehicle accident. Let’s talk about how it happens, misconceptions, symptoms to watch for and what to do if one occurs.

How It Happens. There is a blow to the head. Or a rotational force on the neck. Either situation can lead to shaking of the brain. That’s where the name concussion comes from — the Latin word concutere “to shake violently”. The detailed result at a cellular level is not known. Yet we do know that there is a chemical change that can occur as a result of this sudden acceleration-deceleration injury.

Who Is At Risk. Concussions are more common in children. They have a large head compared to the size of their body. Plus let’s face it, kids fall more and when they do they are more likely to hit their head. After one concussion, a person has a higher risk of having another concussion.

Misconceptions. You don’t have to lose consciousness to have suffered a concussion. The magnitude of symptoms does not mirror the severity of head injury.  You don’t have to hit your head to suffer a concussion - as rotational forces and acceleration/deceleration forces can occur without impact. Symptoms are not always apparent at first. It may take up to 24 hours for any indication that a concussion has occurred.

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Common Symptoms. Family members should be on the look out for confusion, memory loss, repeatedly asking the same questions, headache, dizziness, change in vision, sleepiness, ringing in the ears, nausea. A more in-depth list can be found on www.parachutecanada.org. This organization has developed awareness around concussions in sports across Canada. 

Baseline testing. In my naturopathic medical practice I recognize that everyone is an individual. Those suffering concussion symptoms are no different. No two concussions are the same. To track progress and enable an athlete to safely return to sport, I believe that baseline testing is essential to be able to objectively make the appropriate calls. Both physiotherapy clinics in Penticton offer baseline testing. 

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Treatment. Be aware that a concussion is a traumatic brain injury. Early intervention is important. Refraining from sport immediately following a concussion hastens recovery time. Most mild concussions do resolve with proper rest. This rest includes refraining from sport, stress, school, TV & electronics. Manual therapy can help alleviate headaches and neck pain. Natural medicine has a spot here in reducing brain inflammation, providing brain supportive nutrients and addressing anxiety or pain symptoms.

References:

www.parachute.org

Asken, B, Baruer, R, et al. “Playing Through It”: Delayed Reporting and Removal From Athletic Activity After Concussion Predicts Prolonged Recovery. Journal of Athletic Training, doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-51.5.02, published online May 2016.