Every year in Australia more than 3000 people are hospitalized due
to a concussion from playing sport. However triple that won’t seek
medical attention and as many as 10x that number wont report
their concussion out of fear of being unable to play. Although some
sports - such as football, soccer and ice hockey – have higher
instances of concussion, they can occur in a wide range of activities
and affect all athletes, from amateurs through to professional
Concussion is defined as a temporary disturbance to the brain’s
function that results when a force to the head (or another part of
the body), causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth inside
the skull. This movement can injure delicate areas of the brain and
impair how it processes information. A concussion is a functional
injury rather than structural one and therefore it will not show up
on an X-ray, MRI or in a blood test.
Due to the potential long- term consequences of a concussion, it’s
important to recognise the signs and symptoms. While concussion
is often associated with a loss of consciousness, this usually only
occurs in about 10% of cases. Most symptoms are subtle, non-
specific and can evolve over hours to days following the injury.
There are 22 internationally recognized possible symptoms. These
Nausea or vomiting
Fatigue or low energy
Trouble falling asleep
“don’t feel right”
Feeling of “pressure in the head”
Sensitivity to light
Sensitivity to noise
Feeling slowed down
Nervous or anxious
The short-term symptoms of a concussion are usually reversible
and short lived. However, growing research suggests that multiple
concussions may increase the risk of developing neurodegenerative
conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Chronic traumatic
encephalopathy (CTE), later in life.
Over the past year CTE has been making headlines as we learn
more about the long-term effects of head knocks in professional
athletes. People with this brain condition usually suffer from
cognitive problems, short-term memory loss, emotional instability,
personality changes, behavioral changes, depression and suicidal
thoughts, all believed to brought on years after multiple blows to
the head. CTE can only be diagnosed after death and it has
currently been found in 3 ex-AFL players.
With sport back to full participation, it’s important to understand
the risks and protocols associated with concussions in sport. AFL is
the most popular collision sport in Australia, with an average of 6-7
concussions occurring in every 1000 hours played across amateur
and professional leagues. New research is also saying that due to
the musculoskeletal differences in genders, girls face double the
risk of suffering a concussion and developing brain injuries.
Currently the AFL’s guidelines around head trauma require players
to be sidelined for at least 12 days if they suffer from a concussion.
Other sports such as rugby league and soccer have their own rules
on return to play, usually requiring a doctor’s approval.
Our chiropractors here at BDCC are trained to recognise the early
symptoms of concussion and can refer for additional medical
attention if needed. They can also play a role in co-managing the
recovery process and in helping athletes return to playing sport.
If you’d like to know more about concussion, you can read the
Concussion in Sport Australia position statement by clicking here
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