Head injuries and collisions which lead to a concussion has been a growing topic among sports media recently. Much of the interest has come from research, which shows a link between concussion and its long-term effects. Sports people are taking concussion much more seriously these days and unfortunately, it is still unpopular topic amongst amateur sports athletes.I have sustained two concussions during my former rugby days.
My first concussion involved a direct head collision and resulted in the loss of consciousness and hospital admission. I had vision impairment for 10 days after the injury and woke up some days with no sight at all which was very frightening. I was unable to concentrate and focus on specific tasks and had severe headaches. It took me a while to recover from these symptoms and even had difficulty writing, reading or watching television 6 weeks post injury.
My second concussion was whilst playing semi-professional rugby in the USA in 2013. It involved a whiplash movement tackling an opponent. I got back up and ran to the next ruck but whilst running I collapsed to the ground and lost consciousness and remember nothing until being in the Emergency Department. Friends and family said I was confused, kept asking the same questions and didn’t recognise anyone. Symptoms completely resolved within 24 hours and CT scans were all normal, however, was recommended to no longer continue with my rugby career due to possible long-term effects of getting a 3rd concussion.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury caused by a direct blow to the head or body or from whiplash type movements of the head and neck. ACC guidelines, state Concussion Symptoms to include:
- Blurred vision
- Neck pain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Headache/pressure in the head
- Sensitivity to light &/or noise
- Generally feeling “not quite right”
- More emotional
- Problems with memory
- Reduced ability to think/concentrate
What happens if untreated or ignored?
Immediately following a suspected concussion, the brain is susceptible to further significant damage in the event of another impact. An early recognition that a concussion has occurred is detrimental in order to remove the player from play and reduce risk of severe injury or possibly death. Repeated and severe concussions have been linked to Depression and Dementia.
How long will it take to recover?
The amount of time varies for an individual to recover. ACC guidelines promote a step approach ensuring the person can complete each step without redeveloping symptoms. This approach should be closely monitored by a GP to ensure symptoms are improving.
No activity and complete rest. This step includes no school/work, video games, texting, or reading.
Only when cleared by a doctor and symptom free can light exercise and getting ready to go back to school/work happen. Can start walking, stationary cycling, light jogging, or swimming for 10-15 minutes, maximum twice a day. If symptoms of your concussion return, talk to your Doctor.
Individual, sport-specific activity that consists of NO body/head contact, spins, dives, jumps, high-speed stops or other jarring motions. When first getting back to your activity, 20 to 30 minutes of general cardiovascular activity.
Sport-specific practice with team (no contact) practicing coordination and skill work. When getting back to practicing with your team, begin activities with one teammate and slowly progress to full team practice – always with no contact.
Following clearance from GP or Dr return to sport-specific practice with team (with contact). Work closely with coaching staff and trainers to assess fitness and coordination for return to sport at previous level.