Neurologist Harry Kerasidis, MD is the co-founder and inspiration behind of XLNTbrain Sport™, the comprehensive concussion management system. He authored Concussion-ology: Redefining Sports Concussion Management for All Levels which published in December. Here is a brief excerpt from the book, addressing common and frequently asked questions about concussions.
What if the head injury happens during a game or sport?
- An injured athlete should come out of the game or practice immediately to be tested on the sidelines by a person trained in concussion assessment, and using a quality test or toolset like the XLNTbrain Sideline Assessment Tool. An athlete with concussion symptoms should not play again that day, and should not play as long as symptoms are present. The athlete might need to wait 1 to 2 weeks or longer before being cleared to play again.
- The concussion coordinator, coaches, and trainers can help the treatment process by noting the following information:
- The cause of the injury
- The force of the blow to the head or body, which may include an impact sensor
- Loss of consciousness and for how long
- Any memory loss following the injury
- Any seizures following the injury
- Number of previous concussions (if any)
When should an athlete with a possible concussion
go to the emergency room?
- A loss of consciousness (greater than one minute), a neck injury, or symptoms such as weakness or numbness, double vision that persist, and worsening of condition, severe (incapacitating) headache, or “something is just not right,” are reasons to send the athlete to the emergency room.
When can an athlete return to play after a concussion?
- Before an athlete can return to play, he or she must be totally symptom-free and return to his or her baseline (pre-concussion) scores. Once the athlete has returned to baseline, he or she should start a five-day program in which he or she increases activities while any symptoms are monitored. If any symptoms return, the athlete should return to the previous level of asymptomatic activity. The XLNTbrain Sport provides a recovery protocol including a Daily Symptom Tracking tool, and 5-Step Progressive Exertion plan.
- While recovering from a concussion, it is important to avoid anything that could cause another jolt or blow to the head or body. Once you have a concussion, you are at three to five times greater risk for later concussions. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain has recovered from a first one can slow permanent recovery and increase the chances for long-lasting problems. These problems include difficulties with concentration and memory, headaches, and sometimes physical skills such as keeping one’s balance.
What pain medications can be taken for a concussion?
- In the first phase of concussion, the person should not take any pain medications. A pain medication can “mask” the symptoms, which could alert medical personnel to the presence of a more serious injury.
- After a concussion is diagnosed, acetaminophen can be used; however, it should not be given just to cover up headaches. Naproxen, aspirin, and ibuprofen (NSAID-type medications) should not be used at first, as they may increase the risk of bleeding.
What are the risks of suffering permanent brain damage after having a concussion?
- The level of risk of sustaining permanent brain damage depends on the individual’s brain health, and history of previous concussions and sub-concussive hits. Typically, having one concussion will not lead to long-term impairments. The primary risk of long-term brain damage occurs when a second concussion is sustained while a previous concussion is healing. This is known as Second-Impact Syndrome.
- Additionally, a damaged brain will likely degenerate faster with age, leading to increased risk of early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, memory loss, depression and a host of other cognitive and emotional impairments.