Fact #1: They are Traumatic Brain Injuries:
The word concussion is just a nickname. The true term is actually called “mild traumatic brain injury”, or mTBI for short. Concussions happen after someone’s head, neck, or body collides with another object, causing the brain to move rapidly inside of your skull. The true physiology of concussions is very complex, so I’ll break it down in very simple terms. When you have a concussion, your brain cells release an abnormal amount of chemicals which can cause temporary or permanent brain damage. Sounds serious? That’s because it is! They’re not something you can just “shake off” or “tough it out” through. Concussions are NOT a joke. Period.
Fact #2: They are Invisible to the Naked Eye (and Machines):
One of the tricky things about concussions is medical providers can’t visualize them with technology such as x-rays, MRIs, and even brain scans. That’s because concussions are what we call a metabolic injury, meaning the damage happens at a chemical and cellular level. So why do athletes often get imaging done after having a concussion? It’s most likely to check for other serious injuries that can happen alongside concussion, such as skull fractures and brain bleeds.
Fact #3: You Don’t Have to be Knocked Out to Have a Concussion:
Not losing consciousness does NOT mean you weren’t concussed. In fact, according to the CDC, 90% of concussions do NOT result in a loss of consciousness. Some of the other signs of concussion are memory loss, lightheadedness, confusion, lack of awareness, and emotional outbursts. If you have a teammate who is showing these symptoms, be sure to let your coach and medical staff know right away.
Fact #4: Just Because You “Feel Fine” it Does Not Mean You Recovered:
Just like any other injury in your body, the symptoms of concussion tend to go away before you’re completely healed. Most symptoms, such as fatigue and dizziness, tend to disappear 7-10 days after the initial injury. Again, this does NOT mean you are ready to return to your sport. Full healing, which includes diagnosis and rehabilitation of a concussion by a trained healthcare provider may take 3-4 weeks, and sometimes longer. It is important that you don’t go back too soon, as having a second concussion before your first concussion heals is very, very dangerous.
Fact #5: Playing Through a Concussion Will Hurt Your Team:
Nobody should play through a concussion. Ever. Most players try to “tough it out” because they want to do whatever it takes for their team to win. If that is the case, if you have symptoms of a concussion, tell your coach immediately to take you off the field, as you’re likely to hurt your team. Dizziness. Delayed reaction time. Emotional outbursts. Do those sound like qualities you want in a teammate?
Want an example? Look no greater than Liverpool’s Loris Karius, who played through a concussion in the 2018 Champions League. He “toughed it out” and cost Liverpool two goals against Real Madrid in the final. Your teammates do care about winning, but more importantly, they care about your health and well being even more.
Summary: Concussions are serious. If you suspect that you or your teammate has one, alert your coaching and medical staff right away. Don’t play through it, and be sure to see a medical provider for proper rehabilitation.