Concussions continue to be a hot topic in the world of sports and a concern for parents of athletes. Alex Noll,DO, CAQ lead physician of TRIA’s Sport Concussion Program, offers advice on what to do if you think you have a concussion.
Stop playing and get off the field
The first thing to do is get off the field. Tell your coaches, parents or athletic trainer you may have suffered a concussion. Athletic trainers have specialized training in concussion injuries. Coaches also have to hold mandatory concussion training. Letting one of these people know can help you get to the right person to manage the injury.
Do not play through the concussion symptoms
Trying to play through concussion symptoms will only make the injury worse. Athletes who try may experience more headaches, dizziness, fogginess, nausea or fatigue. This only delays the brain’s recovery after a concussion. The brain uses up its energy reserve when it is trying to heal. Therefore, it needs to borrow energy from muscles and other areas of the body. If you work out too much, you deprive the brain of the energy it needs to recover and symptoms will last longer.
Seek a medical attention
An athletic trainer or other medical professional trained in concussion management should evaluate the athlete. There is no single test to diagnose a concussion or predict the length of recovery. That is why it is important to have a full medical evaluation and treatment plan in place. Minnesota law requires athletes with concussion symptoms to cleared before returning to play.
Rest is important for recovery
Pacing your daily activities and tasks can help you manage academic requirements. Falling behind in school often leads to anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. Being in the right frame of mind, feeling well and having a positive outlook on recovery can help you manage your symptoms.
Follow the 5-Step Return to Play Protocol
5-Step Return to Play Protocol to be started once symptom free at rest
Step 1: Light aerobic activity
Goal: Increase an athlete’s heart rate
Time: 5 to 15 minutes
Activities: Exercise bike, walking or light jogging. No resistance training, jumping or sprinting.
Step 2: Moderate activity
Goal: Limited body and head movement.
Time: Reduced from typical routine
Activities: Moderate jogging, brief running, moderate-intensity stationary biking and moderate-intensity weightlifting
Step 3: Heavy, non-contact activity
Goal: More intense but non-contact
Time: Close to typical routine
Activities: Running, high-intensity stationary biking, the player’s regular weightlifting routine, and non-contact sport-specific drills. This stage may add some cognitive component to practice in addition to the aerobic and movement components introduced in Steps 1 and 2.
Step 4: Practice and full contact
Goal: Reintegrate in full contact practice
Step 5: Competition
Goal: Return to competition