The Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists at the Spine and Sports Concussion Center address the comprehensive needs of the athlete who has sustained a concussion or other sports-related neurological injury to facilitate his or her recovery and the safe, confident return to play.
About the ANS Spine and Sports Concussion Center
Our services include detailed screening and assessment of concussions, including computerized neuropsychological testing and the treatment, evaluation, and follow-up for these disorders while incorporating additional computerized neuropsychological testing as needed. ANS also performs preseason testing for athletes. This test provides an individual baseline measurement for use in determining treatment progress if the athlete is subsequently injured later in the season.
A concussion is a blow to the head or body that causes shaking of the brain, causing damage to the tissue of the brain. Common examples include an athlete’s head hitting a stationary object, such as the ground in field sports (football, soccer, etc.), boards or ice in hockey, and the floor in basketball. A hard blow to the body that shakes the head can also cause a concussion. The head doesn't have to be hit directly.
An estimated ten percent of all athletes participating in contact sports suffer a concussion each season. Concussions occur when a blow to the head or neck interrupts brain function. The effects of these concussions vary between individuals, and many mild concussions often go undiagnosed and unreported. Most athletes recover from concussions completely and can return to play following an appropriate period of recovery. However, knowing when it is safe to return to the game is crucial to avoiding serious brain injuries. Unlike musculoskeletal injuries, athletes cannot play while experiencing the effects of a concussion.
The Expertise of ANS for Athletic Injuries
The Spine and Sports Concussion Center at ANS was designed to address the comprehensive needs of athletes who have sustained a concussion or other sports related neurological injuries to facilitate his or her recovery and a safe and confident return to play. The highly experienced and skilled medical and professional staff at ANS provides excellence in concussion management. Our team also treats other related disorders, providing diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and overall care of the athlete.
Symptoms of Concussions
After a blow to the head, an athlete often shows signs of a concussion. The signs that may indicate a serious head injury include loss of consciousness, seizure, slow response to questions, distraction, poor concentration, a vacant stare, nausea/vomiting, slurred speech, inappropriate playing behavior, poor coordination, and poor balance.
If an athlete exhibits symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion, ringing in the ears, dizziness, seeing stars or flashing lights, double vision, feeling dazed, and being unaware of events in a game, seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms such as trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much, depression, anxiety, irritability, and emotional outbursts can persist for the long term.
Because loss of consciousness occurs in less than 10 percent of athletes with concussion, this is not a reliable indication of a concussion.
Concussion Response and Treatment
If an athlete sustains a head injury and a concussion is a possibility, the athlete must be removed immediately from the game and monitored over several days. Athletes often feel much better within a few minutes of sitting out of a game. However, symptoms often do not manifest for several hours or even several days. Returning an athlete to the field after a concussive episode could result in additional hits that could significantly increase the injury and the recovery time. A simple one- to three-week recovery process could extend to a four- to six-month recovery process that involves missing school, sports, and social events.
If an athlete doesn't manifest symptoms of a concussion over several days, it is usually safe to return to sports after a proper medical evaluation. Young athletes must learn the signs and symptoms of concussions, and they must also be honest about reporting how they are feeling. This is the most important step to protect the ability of young athletes to continue playing the sports they enjoy.
Physicians perform tests to assess coordination and reflexes, which indicate the level of injury to the central nervous system. Physicians may also perform at CT scan or MRI to detect bleeding in the brain. Standard treatment of concussions involves rest to allow the brain to heal and to prevent additional injuries. A physician will perform examinations to determine when the athlete can return to activity.
Preventing a sports-related concussion can involve wearing a helmet that fits properly with a snug chin strap secured at all times. Athletes must also be taught never to lead with the head. Keeping the head up enables athletes to see, prepare for, and avoid hits and collisions. Athletes may also build neck strength to avoid some head injuries.
Keeping children and teens healthy and safe is always the top priority at ANS. Whether you are a parent, youth sports coach, high school coach, school professional, or health care provider, Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists assist with recognizing, responding, and minimizing the risks of concussion or other serious brain injuries.