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What to Look for After a Possible Concussion


By: Tricia Walker, ATC

Summer sports leagues are right around the corner and the Athletic Trainers at Loudoun Sports Therapy Center want to make sure you are prepared should you or your athlete feel they have suffered a concussion.

“I jumped up to head the ball the same way I do in practice. But this time I felt dizzy after and my headache wouldn’t go away.”

Have you ever been in a similar situation with an athlete and did not know what to do?

Some of the most common symptoms associated with concussion injuries are headaches, dizziness and difficulty concentrating. Symptoms that athletes also often report are light or noise sensitivity, confusion, drowsiness, behavioral changes, and nausea. But because every concussion is unique, not all of these symptoms need to be present to indicate it is a concussion. In severe cases, the athlete might lose consciousness, but again, this is not a necessary symptom to definitively identify a concussion.

As a parent, coach, teacher, or spectator, what can we look for to help us identify a concussion and what actions should we take if we suspect a concussion?

Most concussions occur after:

  • Player to player contact
  • Player to playing surface contact
  • Player to equipment contact.

Abrupt head jarring or head movement, like when a car crash occurs, can also cause a concussion. We will focus more on concussions after an impact of some kind.

When you are watching a sporting event and see a player suffer an impact that could result in a concussion, the athlete should be removed from the activity for a few minutes to assess their symptoms and overall function to see if they are able to continue or if they need to be removed from the remainder of the activity.

A few questions to ask the athlete to make sure cognitive function and memory are intact are:

  • What day is it?
  • Who is the president?
  • Do you know where you are at?

If you saw the play that caused the injury, ask the player if they remember the play – both events leading to the impact and the events that followed the impact. If the player has trouble answering any of these questions, they should not return to play and should seek immediate medical attention. If the athlete is able to answer these without hesitation, ask more about how they are feeling. They could be experiencing a headache, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, poor balance, memory loss, light or noise sensitivity, confusion, fatigue, irritability, or other behavioral/emotional changes.

Unless the athlete is vomiting, they do not need to seek immediate medical attention at this point, but I advise seeking medical attention within the next 24 to 48 hours. Regardless of initial symptoms, the athlete should be monitored for any changes in symptoms, cognitive function, memory, and behavioral changes. It is also important to know that in some cases, symptom onset will be delayed. So continue to monitor them for the next 24 to 48 hours to watch for any changes. If symptoms continue to increase or worsen in severity, seek medical attention. You may also notice that they seem sad, more irritable, or more emotional. These behavioral changes are not always seen, but because a concussion disrupts brain function, they are possible symptoms.

Educating yourself, your athlete, and/or your team staff about what to look for in an athlete with a possible concussion is the first step in creating safer youth sports that will carry over into high school and collegiate sports.

If you have any questions or if you suspect an athlete has suffered a concussion, please call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center at 703-450-4300 and we will be happy to answer any questions you have or schedule an evaluation if necessary. In most cases, we will schedule a concussion evaluation the same day you call because of the time sensitivity of concussion management.