Friday, Sept. 15 is National Concussion Awareness Day -- and while football season powers on, this is the perfect time to undress what you might not know about concussions.
Concussion education and prevention efforts have dramatically improved over the past two decades, according to Richard Figler, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Cleveland Clinic, there are some misconception that still exist.
One major misconception is that a player will show symptoms of a concussion immediately after impact. Concussion symptoms will start immediate after the injury and peak within the first few hours, Figler explained. But, signs and symptoms can be delayed in onset.
"An athlete who has a concussion during the game may not know it until they go home and they start to feel a little bit off," Figler said. "Or even the next day when they go to school, and realize that they're not functioning as well."
According to the Cleveland Clinic, a concussion is a short-term impairment of brain function that is usually caused by a blow to the head, or jolt to the body that affects the head. Concussions will cause symptoms that usually last anywhere from 10-14 days, but in some cases can last even longer. Symptoms can include: headaches, dizziness, feeling light-headed, sensitivity to light and noise, difficulty concentrating or focusing, as well as changes in sleep or behavior.
There have been some rule changes in recent years, aimed at decreasing the number of concussions athletes suffer, such as proper football tackling technique and the elimination of "checking" in some youth hockey leagues.
While there have been many safety advances in equipments that protect athletes, Dr. Figler noted that there is currently no helmet that has been proven to prevent a concussion.
"Helmets do not prevent concussions," said Dr. Figler. "They help with head injuries; they help with facial injuries, but they don't necessarily prevent concussions. They are better than what they used to be and continue to improve, but they're not perfect."
Dr. Figler believes that coaches, players, referees, teachers and parents should be education on how to spot an athletes who are showing signs and symptoms of a concussion. It's crucial for concussed athletes to be removed from the field of play, as soon as possible, to prevent further injury and to get evaluated by a medical professional.
"When athletes are pulled away from the game, right after their injury from a concussion, they start the healing process right away and they don't go out and sustain more trauma or worsen their symptoms, said Dr. Figler. "Trauma could include elevating their heart rate or sustaining another hit to the head. Athletes who start healing right away tend to get better, faster."
For more information about concussions, how to spot the signs and symptoms and some preventative measures visit the Cleveland Clinic's website.
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