Living Well: Working together for better concussion recovery
When a child or teen suffers a concussion, treatment and recovery is a collaborative effort
A concussion is an event that causes the brain to suddenly move back and forth, causing a disruption in function, according to the National Injury Prevention Foundation.
This sudden, rapid movement of the head and brain can lead to chemical changes in the brain or damaged brain cells, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Traumatic brain injuries — typically the result of concussions or head trauma — disrupt the normal function of the brain and contribute to about 30 percent of all injury deaths in the United States, according to the CDC. Symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe, and no two brain injuries are ever the same.
Working together to improve treatment and recovery
Since 2012, students and coaches in the state of Colorado have been more proactive about recognizing and treating concussions, thanks to the Jake Snakenberg Youth Sports Concussion Act.
The legislation “requires that coaches receive education about concussions, that a student-athlete is removed from the field of play if a concussion is suspected and that the student be signed off by a healthcare professional before returning to play,” according to the Colorado Brain Injury Collaborative, a group of stakeholders that spent more than a year working on the bill. This is significant because a second concussion could result in serious injury, or even death, if proper treatment and recovery didn’t occur following a first concussion.
Around the same time as the state legislation was created, Frani Jenkins came to Craig to work as a Certified Athletic Trainer and a Physician Assistant, bringing a wealth of sports medicine experience and knowledge about concussion injuries. She helped create a local collaboration between physicians, athletic trainers, physical therapists and the school district, now known as the Craig-Concussion Action Team (C-CAT), which also collaborates with and includes members from the Moffat County School District’s Traumatic Brain Injury Team.
Concussions are so dangerous because they involve both physical and neurocognitive symptoms. The C-CAT stays current on national and international research to make sure local concussion treatment protocols incorporate the latest evidence-based research, Jenkins said.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury in which the brain suddenly moves back and forth, causing a disruption in function. Athletes who participate in contact sports are at a higher risk for suffering a concussion, with as high as a 19 percent likelihood of the injury each season of play.
*Source: National Injury Prevention Foundation
What are the symptoms of a concussion?
- Headache/feeling of pressure in the head
- Ringing in the ears
- Disrupted vision
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Slurred speech
Local concussion resources
For more information about Moffat County School District’s Traumatic Brain Injury Team or the Craig-Concussion Action Team, visit mcsdtbiteam.shutterfly.com. For more information about youth sports concussions, including online concussion training, visit http://www.cdc.gov/headsup.
Sports Medicine at MRH:
For more information about Sports Medicine services offered at Memorial Regional Health for your student-athlete, call 970-826-2450.
The dangers of concussions
A concussion is often caused by trauma to the head, but it could also be caused by violent shaking to the head or upper body.
There are more than 62,000 concussions every year in high school contact sports, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. “Estimates show that between 4 percent and 20 percent of college and high school football players will sustain a brain injury over the course of one season,” according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. “The risk of concussion in football is three to six times higher in players who have had a previous concussion.”
People with concussions often can’t remember what happened immediately before or after the injury and may act confused. A concussion can affect memory, judgment, reflexes, speech, balance and muscle coordination, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
Research shows that the brain is still developing into a person’s mid-20s. Children who have had one concussion are more likely to have a second one, and second concussions that occur close to the first can have devastating consequences.
C-CAT tries to educate students and parents on all of these dangers. Parents of concussed children sometimes don’t fully understand the dangers of the injury. Jenkins said she often hears parents claim they hit their heads many times as a child and turned out fine — that their child just got his or her “bell rung.”
“One of the things we run into is the length of time it can take for a kid to return to full activity, full sports and full academics,” she said. “One requirement is you have to be back in class with no academic accommodations before going back to athletics.”
This recovery can take three to four weeks minimum, she added.
The C-CAT involves school athletic trainers, physical therapists, the school nurse and other medical providers so identification and treatment of concussions are always done thoroughly and collaboratively. Memorial Regional Health asks parents to sign a medical release form when a child comes in for evaluation for a concussion so that the healthcare providers can communicate with the school nurse, teachers, physical therapists and athletic trainers about the injury.
That communication allows these folks to better monitor the children and teens after their injury. At school, for example, students are monitored to see if they’re having any learning or classroom struggles. This might necessitate shorter days at school, rest breaks, limited computer time, extended periods of time to return schoolwork and shortened work assignments.
One of the many tools used in treatment plans is baseline testing, in which student athletes are given a computerized test that assesses balance and brain function, including learning and memory skills, ability to pay attention or concentrate and how quickly the student can solve problems. The results, according to the CDC, are compared with results from a similar exam after a student gets a concussion.
Perhaps the most important concussion treatment and management tool in Craig is this collaborative effort to care. It’s something for which the school district and the C-CAT are incredibly proud.