What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury that occurs when your brain is shaken vigorously in your skull that could have been a result of a direct blow to the head or other areas of your body. A concussion can also result from a sudden deceleration without ever making contact, such as with a whiplash-type of injury. Concussions are common in sports injuries, but they can also result from falls and car accidents.
People may experience concussions differently. You may not have symptoms right away, or they may come and go.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Balance problems
- Trouble falling asleep
- Sleeping too much
- Sleeping too little
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to noise
- Feeling more emotional
- Feeling slowed down or “mentally foggy”
- Difficulty concentrating/remembering
- Visual problems (double vision, blurriness, etc.)
- Amnesia of the event (inability to remember before or after the hit)
- A seizure immediately after sustaining the concussion is not uncommon and is not worrisome (see worrisome symptoms below)
A person who experiences these symptoms after a blow to the head should be immediately removed from gameplay or practice. A person who is trained to recognize concussions should evaluate the athlete on the sideline. If there is even the slightest hint of having a concussion, the athlete is NOT to return to the game or practice. In most cases, emergency department evaluation is not needed. In these cases, simple observation for six hours is all that is necessary.
Symptoms that would necessitate emergent medical evaluation (in a hospital emergency room) include:
- Repeated vomiting
- Severe or progressively worsening headache
- Unsteady gait
- Slurred speech
- Weakness or numbness in the arms or the legs
- Unusual behavior
- Altered mental status (becoming less awake, aware or listless)
- Seizure activity (after approximately 15 minutes to six hours later)
For lingering symptoms, you may need specialized therapy. AHN offers vestibular therapy, which retrains your brain to improve balance and hand-eye coordination. Other therapies are available and utilized depending on your symptoms.
If a student-athlete is suspected of having or has been diagnosed with a concussion, please refer to the following information to guide you through the treatment and Return To Play (RTP) process.
As per the Safety in Youth Sports Act and Pine-Richland School Policy, any student-athlete suspected of having or diagnosed with a concussion MUST:
- Be examined by a licensed physician and/or a neuropsychologist trained in the evaluation and management of concussion
- Turn in to the athletic trainers and nurse copies of any academic/activity modifications obtained from the treating physician’s office
- Complete post-concussion testing at the high school (at the request of the treating physician)
- Complete a multistage gradual exertion program prior to full participation (*The final step is a full-contact practice. Games and scrimmages are NOT considered for this step.)
- Get sign off from the treating physician for participation
The Sway System combines objective balance and cognitive measures to support healthcare professionals in performing accurate and informed evaluations with nothing more than the mobile device they already own. The Sway platform is an all-in-one accessible mobile solution to collect rapid objective data and to better care for athletes. Sway is available on both Apple and Android operating systems and meets HIPAA/FERPA privacy standards. AHN medical staff will be able to efficiently administer baseline tests as well as sideline assessments to provide the best care and reports to provide to our concussion specialists.
Who Needs a Baseline?
Though any Pine-Richland athlete in grades 7-12 is eligible to have a baseline on file, we ensure that all high-contact sport athletes have it completed (football, soccer, basketball, etc.). We do not require this to be done prior to tryouts but we want to make sure everyone is tested within the first few weeks.
Student athletes must complete a concussion baseline test every two years. These tests are offered by our athletic training staff to those in grades 7, 9 and 11, and if the athlete did not complete a baseline test in the previous year. Testing dates for each team will be set by the athletic trainers.
Baseline tests are offered at the AGH Concussion Clinic. Anyone, not just PR athletes, can sign up by going to AHN.org/events and searching "concussion" to find sessions. Baseline tests are $20. For additional information, visit AHN Concussion Center.