One of the most important aspects, if not the most important part of dealing with concussions, is knowing when an athlete can return to their sport. If an athlete is rushed back too early, this can create an increased recovery time, and even put the athlete at risk of further, more severe brain injury.
As mentioned in the previous post, older athletes tend to recover a little quicker than younger athletes. The typical ranges are: adults - 2-3 days; college age - 7-10 days; high school age - 14-21 days; middle school age - 28-35 days. Now these are just averages and may not be exact timetables for every single athlete. There is not enough evidence out there to determine a range for even younger athletes, though you can expect it to be longer than that of middle school aged athletes.
It is important for athletes to avoid all activity in the early stages of recovery, even doing something light like riding a stationary bike to stay in shape can lead to prolonged recovery time. The brain needs time to rest for it to recover the injury.
There are very specific guidelines that have been developed by professionals all over the world when it comes to returning an athlete who had a concussion back to their sport. The Zurich Return to Play Guidelines were agreed upon internationally by experts and are as follows:
If they are symptom-free with daily activities and they have normal neurologic exam but have not returned to baseline on neurocognitive test, they may start to participate in non-contact sport activity
The progressive physical exertion testing can be broken down into several stages as follows:
Second Impact Syndrome
Second Impact Syndrome (SIS) is a catastrophic injury that occurs when someone sustains a second concussion before symptoms from a previous concussion have fully subsided. While this condition is very rare, it is often fatal as it causes severe swelling in the brain. The second impact can occur seconds, minutes, days, or even weeks after the initial concussion and can even be extremely mild to cause these severe effects. This is why it is crucial to sit an athlete out if there is even a tiny suspicion of a possible concussion.
How Many is Too Many?
There is currently not enough research done to have a concrete answer on how many concussions are too many, however as there is more and more research conducted, we may have an answer to that question in the future. There has been some research out there stating that someone who has received one concussion has an increased chance of sustaining a second concussion, but more research needs to be done.
Unfortunately, there is often not much that can be done to prevent concussions from happening. In cheerleading, the most effective prevention tool is proper progression of skills and using proper mat surfaces. If the athletes are not ready for certain skills, this increases the chance of the falling, leading to an increased risk of concussions.
There has been a recent surge in discussion of “concussion-proof helmets”. Research evidence shows that these are ineffective in preventing concussions from occurring. The concussion does not solely occur from a direct blow, but rather the jostling of the brain inside the skull, which is impossible for a helmet to prevent from occurring.
Know your athletes. If you see that they get hit to the head, it is better to be safe and sit them out and be fully assessed then to be put at risk of further injury. A concussion can’t be “seen” like many other injuries, so a proper assessment is needed for diagnosis. Long-term effects are minimal if the concussion is managed properly, but if not, there can be lasting effects that can impact the athlete’s life forever.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this website is compiled from a variety of professional sources as well as the author's own experiences. The information should NOT be used in place of a visit to your healthcare provider or used to disregard any advice provided by your healthcare provider.