Concussions 101



When more than 4,000 NFL football players speak up, the sports medicine world listens. Concussions have been thrust back into the limelight recently, largely due to the “master complaint” against the NFL for alleged negligence and withholding information on the severity of concussions. While football has one of the highest incident rates, concussions can affect athletes at all levels and in essentially any sport.

When the Pittsburg Penguin’s captain Sidney Crosby received the infamous blow that kept him off the ice for the rest of the season, he was initially treated with the all too common “are you okay?” method, rather than being pulled from the game. A method to which most athletes, Crosby included, instinctually answer “yes.”

Acting as a contributing factor to a third of all injury-related deaths in the U.S., over a million Americans are affected by concussions annually. In Canada, 456 people suffer from one every day. When you consider that research has suggested that 15 percent of those who suffer concussions experience long-term effects for up to two years afterwards, the amount of people in recovery from these types of brain injuries is significant. It should come as no surprise that athletes, athletic trainers, coaches, concerned parents and spouses have all taken note.

While most people associate concussions with a loss of consciousness, only 10 percent actually cause a loss of consciousness. To make it even harder to judge when someone has suffered a concussion, some symptoms can have a delayed onset of up to 48 hours.

So What is a Concussion?

It is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that is caused by a direct or indirect force, blow or jolt to the head, causing the brain to move violently. Depending on the severity, concussions can cause a dazed, hazy feeling or periods of unconsciousness. Most effects are temporary and can be mild enough that people don’t even realize they are concussed.

Symptoms can include:

  • Headache or nausea
  • Unsteadiness
  • Confusion or short-term memory loss
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Blurred vision or fatigue

Those affected, or thought to be affected, should seek medical attention if any of their symptoms worsen or if any of the following occurs:

  • Unconsciousness extends for more than two minutes
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Athlete is drowsy, can’t be woken up or can’t walk
  • Confusion, irritability
  • Seizures
  • Weak or numb arms or legs
  • Vision or eye disturbances occur, for example dilated or different sized pupils

Education is one of the best preventions against concussions. When athletes are aware of the dangers of concussions and the importance of reporting them and when those evaluating possibly concussed athletes are doing so efficiently and consistently, everyone is better positioned to make the best possible decisions. There are tools available to assess concussions, the most widely recognized of which is the SCAT2, or Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2.

In our next post we’ll overview what the SCAT2 is and how it works. If you’re looking for more information in the meantime, download our free whitepaper Keep Their Heads In The Game: Manage Concussion Assessments like a Pro with the SCAT2 or check out Presagia Sports for more information about mobile SCAT2.


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