The most common sports-related head injury is a concussion. It is extremely important that parents, coaches and players are all able to recognize the symptoms due to the fact that it is a traumatic brain injury and can have lasting effects.
A concussion can result in specific physical, psychological, neurological and cognitive symptoms. The cause of a concussion is through trauma to the head, whether it be direct or indirect, that brings concussive energy to the brain. Direct trauma is usually caused from a blow to the head and can cause the brain to slide back and forth against the inner walls of the skull. A concussion can also occur due to any action that causes acceleratory or deceleratory forces shifting the brain within the skull such as a fall backwards transmitting force through the spine into the cranium.
Following these traumatic events immediate biomechanics changes occur in the brain disrupting the neurotransmitters and blood flow. Unfortunately, suffering a concussion is a risk the soccer athlete assumes when engaging in the game. Having a general understanding in signs and symptoms of a concussion is a must for parents, coaches and players as well as continued evaluation where symptoms may arise days or weeks following the initial injury.
The most common symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
• Balance problems
• Difficulty concentrating
As a practitioner, and with my extensive experience with athletes, I can tell you these type of injuries are not clear cut and re-evaluation is extremely important. Following the diagnosis of a head injury the athlete needs to be removed from participation and remain shut down until proper evaluation by a medical professional can be completed. As a health care professional I have had the benefit of seeing treatment programs develop over the years and have been able to assess the practicality of each module determining one specific protocol the best as it has been accepted within the medical community and has evolved over years.
Once symptoms are resolved and the athlete has been cleared by a physician trained in the evaluation and management of concussions, he or she may begin the return-to-play protocol under the guidance of an athletic trainer of physical therapist. Successful completion of each stage is determined through the athlete's response to specific graded exercise program. Returning to sport postconcussion is a delicate and lengthy process due to the risks involved however, if proper precaution is taken, guidelines are followed and benchmarks are met the athlete can return to sport safe and healthy.