In the News... Concussions

Posted 1/4/2016 in Other | 2443 view(s) | 0 comment(s)

In the News… Concussions

By Marissa Parker, MSED, ATC

Actor Will Smith is staring in a new movie titled Concussion. This has once again shined a spotlight on head trauma across the nation. In the movie, Dr. Bennet Omalu, a neuropathologist, discovers a neurological deterioration disease (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in the brain of Mike Webster, a former NFL player. The film highlights Dr. Omalu’s undertaking to raise public awareness about the dangers of repetitive head trauma, specifically in football.

Unfortunately, tragedy in football is not something new to Illinoisans. On October 24, 2015, a senior at Bogan High School died after he had collapsed on the football field.  According to the Cook County medical examiner’s office, the student-athlete “died of blunt force head injuries due to a football accident.” During the final play of his Thursday night game, the 17-year-old hit his head. After walking off of the field, he collapsed and passed away the next morning.

Although making the public aware of these tragedies is important, media outlets are very quick to share the “bad news” about concussions but often neglect to share the progress and advances being made.

For instance, the American Medical Association (AMA) voted in June 2015 to adopt policies aimed at reducing the risk of concussion in young athletes. The new policy addresses the need for prompt diagnosis and appropriate concussion management plans in treating sports-related concussions. Anyone suspected of having sustained a concussion is to be removed immediately from the activity and allowed only to return with a physician’s written consent.

Additionally, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association has been diligently working to compile all the research to develop a consensus on concussion recognition, management, and care. In the past few years, baseline testing has been developed to allow medical practitioners to have one more valuable tool should an individual sustain a concussion. Guskiewicz et al has stated that the goal of baseline testing is to provide the most reliable benchmark against which to compare post injury performance.  Without any baseline testing, the sports medicine team must rely on normative cognitive data.

Baseline information is extremely beneficial in determining the presence and severity of “cognitive insult” after injury by documenting and comparing an individual’s level of cognitive functioning before engaging in activities that increase the risk of a concussion. One baseline test used at Achieve Ortho Sports is the ImPACT® test.  ImPACT® is a brief computer-administered neuropsychological test battery consisting of six different modules that measure cognitive functioning in attention, memory, reaction time, and processing speed. ImPACT® testing is currently used as a concussion management tool. An athlete will undergo preseason testing which is used as a baseline for comparison. If that athlete sustains a concussion, he/she will undergo post-injury testing which is then compared to the baseline testing. See common signs and symptoms associated with concussions and head trauma below.

Every concussion will produce atypical symptoms—no two will be the same.  Every person will be affected in very different way.  There is no standard because comparisons cannot be made. 

Unlike other injuries that can be seen or directly tested for, concussion diagnosis is traditionally determined based off of subjective information from the athlete. It is extremely important for athletes to notify coaches, athletic trainers, physicians, or parents if they have experienced any type of head injury.  Educating your children or athletes about the adverse effects of “keeping quiet” and the importance of talking to someone can be life or death.

Common Signs & Symptoms:





Visual Problems



Balance problems

Sensitivity to light

Sensitivity to noise

Difficulty concentrating

Fatigue/feeling tired


Ringing in the ears



Monitoring symptoms and how they develop is important to the healing process. If you are unsure of symptom severity or notice an urgent sign or symptom contact your local emergency room or call 9-1-1.

 Urgent Signs & Symptoms:

Severe worsening of headache


Repeated Vomiting

Increasing confusion 

Increasing neck pain

Numbness or tingling in arms/legs

Slurred Speech

Unusual behavior change

Very drowsy, can’t be awakened

Significant irritability

Less responsive than usual 

Pupils becoming unequal in size 


If any of the URGENT symptoms develop quickly and/or worsen in intensity, contact 911 and/or your family physician.

It is OK to:

No Need to:


Apply ice as needed for comfort
Check eyes with flashlight
*Take ibuprofen, naproxen, or Advil
Eat a carbohydrate-rich diet
Wake up frequently (unless otherwise instructed)
Do not participate in activities that make symptoms worse
Stay in bed
Drink alcohol
Go to sleep
Elevate heart rate with strenuous exercise until approved to do so
Take minimal dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol) for minor headache*


Articles and Sources:

Guskiewicz, K. (n.d.). When Treating Sport Concussion, Check the Boxes, But Also Go the Extra Mile. Journal of Athletic Training, 48(4), 441-441. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-48.4.14


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