Concussions continue to be a hot topic in the sports world, especially with football season just around the corner. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that can have a serious effect on a developing brain. While most athletes who sustain a concussion recover quickly and fully, some will have concussion symptoms that last for days, weeks or even months.
It’s crucial for an athlete to take the time to properly heal after sustaining a concussion. Not giving the brain enough time to heal can be dangerous and may put the athlete at higher risk for re-injury. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain heals from the first concussion (known as second impact syndrome) can slow recovery, increase chances for long-term health problems and even become fatal.
Recognizing and responding properly to concussions when they first occur is the first step in preventing further injury or even death. Many states, schools and sports leagues have recently enacted policies or action plans to deal with concussion injuries. In May 2009, the State of Washington passed the “Lystedt Law” to address concussion management in youth athletics. It was the first state law to require a “removal and clearance for return-to-play” among athletes. Between 2009 and 2012, at least 42 additional states and the District of Columbia passed similar laws.
The requirements for return-to-play laws vary, but they typically include some combination of the following: mandatory removal from play, mandatory bench times and required medical clearance. After the athlete receives their required medical clearance, they will start a five-step program to safely return to play. This is a gradual process, and these steps should not be completed in one day, but instead over days, weeks or months, if necessary.
It is important to watch for concussion symptoms during each return-to-play progression activity. An athlete should only move to the next step if they do not have any new symptoms at the current step. If an athlete’s symptoms come back or if they experience new symptoms, it is a sign that the athlete is pushing themselves too hard. The athlete should stop these activities and the athlete’s medical provider should be contacted.
This is an example of a typical return-to-play progression:
Step 1: Light aerobic activity. This means about five to 10 minutes on an exercise bike, walking or light jogging. No weight lifting at this point.
Step 2: Moderate activity. This includes moderate jogging, brief running and moderate-intensity stationary biking.
Step 3: Heavy, non-contact activity. This includes sprinting or running, non-contact sport-specific drills (in three planes of movement).
Step 4: Practice and full contact. Athlete may return to practice and full contact.
Step 5: Competition. Athlete may return to competition.
Posted: 8/05/2015 by
Filed under: athletics, concussions, exercise