Concussions

ThedaCare Orthopedic Care - Concussion

Concussions in athletes are a much more serious problem than has been recognized in the past. We now recognize that getting your “bell rung” is a brain injury that can take several days or more to heal. Recent studies show that they are more common and take longer to heal than previously thought.  This can result in an increased risk of repeated concussions, prolonged symptoms, decreased academic performance and potentially permanent disability.   This should concern everyone associated with sports as well as organizations that deal with brain injuries.

Concussion management is one of the many functions our Licensed Athletic Trainers serve while covering our area’s high schools.  Each year the LAT’s from ThedaCare Orthopedic Care perform baseline neurocognitive testing on athletes free of charge in the schools we cover (Berlin, Clintonville, Fox Valley Lutheran, Weyauwega-Fremont, Hortonville, Kimberly, Little Chute, Menasha, Neenah, New London, Princeton-Green Lake, Shawano, Waupaca, Wautoma, and UW Fox Valley).  ThedaCare Sports Medicine has a long standing relationship with ImPact, one of the country’s most recognized testing systems.

Should a local athlete sustain a concussion, baseline data assists our Sports Medicine Physicians in their decision making when thinking about returning an athlete to practice.  In addition to a comprehensive exam, pre and post-concussion data provides a more complete picture of the athletes recovery.

For more information about concussion management or baseline ImPact testing, contact the Licensed Athletic Trainer at your local high school.

We have provided information for Coaches, Teacher, and Parents to become more informed of the signs an symptoms of a concussion:

Prevention

Preventing concussions is difficult, so we need to do what we can to reduce the number of concussion as well as properly treat the ones that do occur.  Proper treatment can reduce the chance of repeat concussions.  We get many parents, athletes and coaches that ask about what can be done to prevent sports related concussions.  Equipment modifications to prevent concussion show promise in early studies, but so far there is no clear medical evidence that differently shaped helmets or soccer head bands will prevent concussion.  This makes their use a “judgment call”, which must be combined with a warning that these devices should not be combined with more aggressive play.  Because the concussive injury occurs inside the skull, no helmet or other device outside the skull can completely prevent concussion.Recommendations to help reduce the risk of concussion are:

  • Ensure that the athlete wear a helmet that is appropriate for the sport that they are participating in.  The helmet should be certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).
  • Ensure that the helmet is fit in accordance to the requirements for that particular sport.  Reports show that only 15-20% of all helmets are fit correctly.  It is very important that the helmet is fit properly and worn correctly each and every time.
  • Avoid using the head as the primary focal point of contact.  The head and helmet should never be used as a weapon.  Anti-spearing rules in football have helped to reduce the number of cervical spine injuries in that sport, however, head first contact is still evident and is increasing in sports other than football.
  • Instruct the athlete in proper tackling techniques in football.  Teaching them to not lead with the head and to hit with the shoulder instead of the helmet can reduce the incident of concussion.
  • Strengthen the neck muscles.  Some studies have shown that individuals with stronger neck musculature have a lower rate of concussion.  It is theorized that a stronger neck can absorb some of the shock of the blow to the head and may decrease the force delivered to the brain.  Weaker neck muscles appear to be one reason why girls may be at greater risk of concussion than boys.
  • Mouth guard use and its role in preventing concussion is inconclusive at this time.  Some studies have shown the benefits of mouth guard use in preventing concussions, and others have shown there is no correlation between mouth guard use and the reduction of concussion in sports.  While it may not be possible to show that mouth guards are beneficial in reducing concussion, there is certainly no harm in an athlete wearing one.  If anything, it may help reduce dental trauma as well as lacerations to the mouth.
  • The use of headgear in soccer is beginning to gain more attention.  At this time there is not enough evidence to confirm that headgear use in soccer reduces the incidence rate of concussion.
  • Several helmet designs for football and hockey have been developed with the intention of reducing concussion rates.  Preliminary research has been positive, however, other studies show that they fail to actually reduce the concussion rate in wearers.
  • Learn more about preventing concussions from the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Coaches

Concussion Guidelines and Training Resources

We have provided links to educational materials to help you and your fellow coaches understand how to prevent, recognize and prevent concussions in your athletes. Please feel free to print them out for your use.

CDC’s Heads Up: Concussions In Youth Sports - this provides concussion training as well as educational information for coaches, athletes and parents

Guidelines for the Management of Head Trauma in Sports

Parents

Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion

Know the signs and symptoms of a concussion to help keep your student athlete safe.

Teachers

Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion

Know the signs and symptoms of a concussion to help keep students safe.