“Concussions are common especially in sports”: how spot them and treat them

Published: Sep. 16, 2022 at 10:49 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - “Over 60,000 high-school athletes get concussions each year,” Augusta Health Sports Medicine physician Dr. Joe O’Brien said.

The athletes most at risk are those who play high-impact sports like American football and soccer, but concussions are not exclusive to just athletes and can be dangerous.

Therefore, it is important to know what symptoms to look for and to know what to do if it happens to you.

“A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that can be low-grade or high-grade’” Dr. O’Brien said. “It can be from an impact to the head or even a whiplash injury.”

He explained that the body’s response to an injury is swelling. To prevent the brain from swelling-this can be dangerous- the body stops blood from flowing to the brain.

“That paradoxical demand for inflammation but protective instinct from the body to prevent it is what causes a concussion,” he said.

Symptoms of concussion can vary depending on the person and the intensity of the hit.

Some common ones include headache, dizziness, and changes in mood, vision, or thought processing. These symptoms could be delayed.

”80% resolve within 10 days of onset but the other 20% can linger and can last for a long time. You can have one of those symptoms or even all of those symptoms,” Dr. O’Brien reminded.

Treatment can also vary depending on the type of concussion.

“We used to tell everyone to go sit in a dark room,” he recalled. “Those vestibular symptoms (often associated with dizziness), the treatment for that is exposure, so we don’t want you in a dark room, we want you progressing with activity.”

If an athlete experiences concussion symptoms during the game, Dr. O’Brien stressed not to continue playing. A second hit could be damaging.

”There’s a disease called second-impact syndrome which is when you haven’t healed from the initial concussion and you get conked in the melon again, and that can be really serious. That can cause permanent brain damage,” he warned.

Additionally, you will want to visit a sports medicine or primary care physician as soon as possible.

Dr. O’Brien said he is in Harrisonburg at the new primary care clinic the second Wednesday of each month or in Fishersville five days a week accepting patients.