Simply put, when you hit your head, your brain moves around and can bang against the inside of your skull. This can cause your brain to bruise or lead to tearing of blood vessels and injury to the nerves, resulting in a concussion – a temporary loss of normal brain function.
Concussions and other brain injuries are fairly common for athletes. According to a recent study, high school athletes in nine sports sustained an estimated 137,000 concussions during the 2007-2008 school year. High-impact sports such as football, boxing, lacrosse, soccer, basketball and hockey pose a higher risk of head injury, even with the use of protective headgear.
You don’t have to lose consciousness to have a concussion
So you’ve hit your head – but do you have a concussion? Here are some of the signs:
"Seeing stars" and feeling dazed, dizzy, or lightheaded
Nausea or vomiting
Blurred vision, unevenly sized pupils and sensitivity to light
Slurred speech or saying things that don't make sense
Difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
Difficulty with coordination or balance
Feeling anxious or irritable for no apparent reason
Feeling overly tired
Memory loss or forgetfulness (if you don't know your name – there's a good chance you have a concussion).
The signs of concussion are not always recognized, which is why having an athletic trainer who is specifically trained to recognize concussions or a medical professional who is trained in concussion management is essential. They can assess your injury and determine if you have a concussion. Often baseline testing – when players are tested for neurological responses prior to the season – can be helpful in evaluating if you have a concussion.
Dangers of a Concussion:
Continuing to play or returning to activity too soon will put you at risk for serious injury – even if you feel fine. If your brain hasn't healed properly from a concussion and you get hit again (even if it's with less force), you can develop long-term disabilities or die.
You Have a Concussion, Now What?
First, stop playing. Don't return to play even if you feel fine – your brain needs time to heal. The amount of time you need to recover depends on how long the symptoms last. Healthy teens can usually resume normal activities within a few weeks, but each situation is different.
Your athletic trainer and/or doctor will determine how long you should sit out. Until then, it’s important to get plenty of rest for both your body and mind. Activities that require concentration and attention (like studying, test taking, or even playing videogames) may make the symptoms worse and delay recovery.
Some accidents can not be avoided, but you can do a lot to prevent a concussion by taking simple precautions:
Wearing appropriate headgear and safety equipment.
Learn appropriate techniques. In sports like football, learn how to tackle without leading with your head, and in soccer, avoid heading the ball when it is kicked at high velocity from close range.
Remember, most people with concussions recover just fine with appropriate treatment. But it's important to take proper steps if you suspect a concussion because it can be serious.
You can learn more about concussion safety by visiting the California Athletic Trainers’ Association website at www.ca-at.org or the Youth Sports Safety Alliance at www.youthsportssafetyalliance.org. California Assemblymembers Mary Hayashi and Jerry Hill have recently introduced legislation that would help protect youth athletes from catastrophic injuries. To see the bill and access sample letters of support to send to your legislators, visit www.ca-at.org/letterwrite.
Each year athletes take to the outdoors during the sweltering summer months and each summer a few of these athletes suffer from heat related illness.
Heat illness is a serious condition that can be prevented if you pay attention to the warning signs. Most common during the middle of the summer but not limited to this time, heat illness can affect anyone who over exerts themselves under the sun, but the people most at risk include; overweight or large athletes, the elderly, children, and those who are poorly acclimated to the high temperatures.
Particular attention should also be paid to those athletes that require additional padding or helmets, like football players (specific safety guidelines for these athletes can be found by visiting the National Athletic Trainers' Association www.nata.org/statements/consensus/heatillness.pdf).
So what is heat illness and how can it be prevented?
Simply put, heat illness is the body's inability to cool itself. While our bodies are generally hot to begin with, maintaining a constant temperature of around 98.6 degrees farenheight, there are internal and external factors that combined together, can produce a potentially lethal reaction.
We create our own internal body heat through the process of metabolism - the process by which our bodies convert nutrients to energy. This process, called basal metabolism, is the base amount of nutrient conversion the body needs to sustain life.
Another form of heat production occurs from muscular activity or through exercise. The blood rushing into the muscles during exercise raises the body's core temperature and causes heat to be produced in the extremities.
The body's natural reaction to the rise in temperature is to sweat - perspiration is the body's natural way of cooling itself - but after a certain point the body loses its ability to naturally cool itself and begins to suffer from heat related illness.
There are three stages of heat related illness, each with very distinct characteristics. By learning to recognize the symptoms you can prevent the problem from escalating into a potentially life threatening incident.
Heat Cramps: Characterized by involuntary muscle spasms, profuse sweating, normal pulse and respirations, possible dizziness. _Treatment_: sit in a cool place, massage cramps with ice, stretch, drink water and diluted electrolyte drinks. Heat Exhaustion: Skin becomes cool and clammy, profuse sweating, dizzy or disoriented, breathing becomes rapid and shallow, and the pulse is weak. _Treatment_: Remove wet clothing and equipment, cool rapidly (ice water on skin or submerge in ice bath), use fan if possible, may need IV fluids. Heat Stroke: Increased irritability followed by apathy, very disoriented and unsteady, pulse is strong and rapid, skin is hot and dry, blood pressure will drop convulsions, and possibly coma. _Treatment_: Activate 911 response immediately - this is a medical emergency and can lead to death. Cool rapidly with ice or submerge in ice bath, treat for shock, and transfer to trauma center as soon as possible.
All three types of heat related illness should be treated without delay because progression from one stage to the next can happen suddenly and without warning.
To avoid heat related illness one should:
Stay hydrated properly with water and diluted electrolyte drinks. When the body becomes dehydrated it loses its ability to properly cool itself.
Make sure you acclimatize to your environment; if you spend all day indoors in a controlled environment you are more likely to suffer from heat related illness when you exercise outdoors in the heat.
Remember to rehydrate after daily exercise; keep a weight chart that is measured both pre and post exercise so you know how much water you need to replace, 8 oz. of water for every pound of body weight lost.
Wear loose comfortable clothing; synthetics are best for wicking water from the skin.
If you have a pre-existing health problem, ask your doctors advice before jumping into outdoor activities.
Always remember -- stay hydrated, keep cool and you will enjoy the hot summer months.