Sara Noon | @uslacrosse
As parents, we want our child’s experience in sports to be really fun and very positive. It’s about team, exercise and skill development. But in today’s world, protecting our kids during this experience is at the top of our minds, especially when it comes to head injuries.
My daughter is in the process of the “return to play” experience after she sustained a concussion while taking a handball to the face. Who would have thought playing handball in physical education class would result in a concussion? But as I understand it, different heads and brains have different tolerance levels for concussions, and I am now aware that my daughter is more prone.
Having been through the concussion diagnosis and assessment experience, I can say with certainty that the doctors know the drill. From her pediatrician, who first diagnosed her concussion, to the team of neurologists who assessed her and then cleared her to return to play, I was really impressed.
So as our kids continue their lacrosse seasons, if they show any sign of a concussion after a “knock” to the head — headaches, dizziness, trouble concentrating — protect their brains and get them assessed. Below are some excerpts and tips from Lacrosse Magazine and other US Lacrosse publications to remind us of the importance of the concussion diagnosis and return-to-play process. Importantly, ask your child’s school about neurocognitive baseline testing and return-to-place policies.
- Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), caused by a blow or jolt to the head or body that produces shaking of the brain inside the skull, resulting in mild to severe disruption in the way the brain normally works. Since there are no clear biomarkers in the diagnosis of the injury, care providers look for symptoms — immediate or delayed. Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion, amnesia, unresponsiveness or loss of consciousness.
- The majority of concussions resolve in 10-14 days without any known long-term consequences. However, in a very small percentage, there are persistent symptoms and ongoing difficulties with cognitive function or balance.
- Younger athletes appear to take longer to recover, and therefore should be treated with extra caution. Modifiers that are associated with a prolonged recovery include an increased number and duration of symptoms and a history of prior concussion. Other modifiers that may play a role in prolonged recovery include a history of migraine headaches, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (or other learning disorders) and history of depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders.
- An initial period of rest is important, and avoiding cognitive activity, such as texting, video games and extended computer work, also is important. After a few days, light exercise can be initiated assuming it doesn’t worsen symptoms. It’s unclear if other interventions are helpful in assisting recovery, but alcohol, aspirin, narcotics and other medications that impair cognitive function or increase bleeding are typically avoided in the first few days.
- It is very important that athletes with concussions remain well hydrated, maintain good nutritional habits and get plenty of sleep. Keep in mind that physical and cognitive rest does not mean placing the child in a cocoon. Typical activities of daily living, including school, should be added as soon as they are tolerated without producing an increase in symptoms.
When your daughter’s doctor tells you she has sustained a concussion, a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts can run through your mind. It’s important to take a deep breath, listen to what the medical professionals are telling you, and then communicate effectively with both them and your child to ensure a complete recovery.
Stephen and Kelly Berger, who’ve played for the U.S. national teams, hosted the video “Concussions in Lacrosse: Signs, Symptoms, and Playing Safe.”
Sara Noon is the senior director of membership and regional development at US Lacrosse.
For more information on the diagnosis of and recovery from concussions, visit US Lacrosse’s concussion awareness section.
Sports Science and Safety