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Communication is Key to Managing Sport-Related Concussions


A concussion is an injury to the most complex part of the human body that is best served by clinical experience and best treated on an individual basis. An estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million sport-related concussions are sustained every year (Langlois et al., 2006). Diagnosing sport-related concussions is one of the most elusive tasks of sports medicine clinicians (Frommer et al., 2011).

Many coaches, parents, and healthcare professionals have asked the question: What’s the most effective approach to properly assess and manage concussions in athletes? Although this is hard to determine and concussion researchers are constantly assisting in this effort, we should first identify the “key players” involved in managing sport-related concussions and educate them accordingly.

There are five key players who should be involved in taking care of concussed athletes: the athletes, coaches, parents, healthcare professionals, and school professionals (in no particular order of importance). Effective communication by these key players has a significant role in managing sport-related concussions, especially at the youth and high school levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made a concerted effort to properly educate coaches about concussion and improve their ability to both recognize and manage concussions in their athletes.

Most athletes are said to possess a tough mentality and rarely does any athlete want to leave a competition due to injury. Well, what if that injury could affect the way you think, the way you interact, the way you live your life? This is exactly some of the major consequences that can be caused by multiple concussions. Long-term problems associated with concussion can affect thinking, memory, learning, language, and emotions. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first can slow recovery or increase the likelihood of having long-term problems (Sarmiento et al., 2010).

Therefore, it is an athlete’s responsibility to notify the right personnel when experiencing some of the common symptoms of a possible concussion. A wide range of clinical signs and symptoms may be present with concussion, including physical signs, behavioral changes, cognitive impairments, somatic and emotional symptoms (Daneshvar et al., 2011). Table 1 shows signs and symptoms that are commonly associated with concussion.

Take an online concussion training to help you recognize and manage concussions at http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/Training/HeadsUpConcussion.html.

Brandon Spradley is a residential doctoral student at the United States Sports Academy and can be reached via email at bspradley@ussa.edu.


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