Management of concussions includes many steps.
Everything starts with awareness and prevention. Every team should have an appointed staff member in charge of dealing with all concussions. Furthermore, a detailed presentation should be given to parents and athletes explaining the team’s specific concussion protocol at the start of every new season. Parents and athletes must be made aware of the consequences associated with this injury and need to be able to identify the circumstances that can lead to a concussion. Most importantly, parents and athletes must be able to recognize the signs and the symptoms of a concussion.
The key lies in the proper immediate field management of concussions. It is recommended that any athlete suspected of having sustained a concussion be immediately removed from play, whether a practice or a game. Remember, about 1 in 5 athletes will only start feeling symptoms up to 24 hours post-incident and one in two athletes will try to hide symptoms in order to keep playing. So the absence of signs or symptoms does not guarantee that the athlete is not concussed. For that reason, as soon as a concussion is suspected, the athlete should be encouraged to rest. Close observation for the onset of signs or symptoms is needed for a period of 24 to 48 hours after the incident.
The first and most important treatment is rest. However, rest needs to be followed by close monitoring of recovery in order to plan a progressive and safe return to learn and return to play. An athlete who returns to regular intellectual or physical activities too rapidly could worsen their condition. The improper management of the injury could significantly prolong recovery, as well as increase the risk of sustaining another concussion.
Someone suspected of having sustained a concussion should take a period of complete physical and mental rest for at least 48 hours following the incident. During this time, particular attention should be given to any unusual signs or symptoms warning of a more severe injury requiring immediate medical intervention. Complete rest remains the first step in the treatment of concussions. Rest is usually defined as a complete stoppage of any and all activity of physical, intellectual and social nature in order to minimize brain activity and maximize recovery. The rest period should be maintained until the athlete is completely asymptomatic. This period should, however, not exceed one week. An extended rest period can have undesirable effects. For this reason, any athlete or individual having sustained a traumatic brain injury must be closely followed and cared for during this critical recovery period.
The return to daily activities needs to be carefully planned and adjusted to the athletes specific needs. It should be progressive, making necessary adjustments along the way to ensure that the needs of the individual are met.