Preventing and Treating Concussions in Teen Athletes: Learn the 3 R’s

youngFor teen athletes who engage in fall sports such as football and soccer, August often marks the return of a regular practice schedule and gearing up for the first games of the season. It’s also a great time for parents, coaches, and athletes to review the symptoms of a concussion and know when and how to get care should a student sustain a head injury.  Dr. Zach Smith, medical director of the LeBauer Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic in Greensboro, NC, shares these tips. 

Learn the 3 R’s of Concussions

While some sports have a higher risk of concussions, it’s important to remember concussions can happen in any sport, and even outside of sports. Teens have the best chance of recovering from a concussion and avoiding complications when students, parents, and schools follow the three R’s: recognize, report, and recover.

Recognize

It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion early. Review these symptoms with your children, and let them know that the signs of a concussion do not always appear immediately. Concussion symptoms may show up hours or even a day after the head injury.

Concussion Symptoms Students May Report

  • Headache or a feeling of pressure in head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Bothered by light or noise
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
  • Confusion, or concentration or memory problems
  • Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down”

Concussion Symptoms You May Observe

  • Can’t recall events prior to or after a hit or fall
  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Forgets an instruction, is confused about an assignment or position, or is unsure of the game, score, or opponent
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes

Report

Female soccer playerTalk to your children about the importance of reporting any suspected head injury right away. Parents should also ask the athletic director who the concussion point person is at their child’s school. Often, it is an athletic trainer. Otherwise, each school should have a designated point person who is able to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussion and are knowledgeable about who to refer the athlete to for assessment.

If a head injury is even suspected, the athlete should always be immediately removed from play. The student should also be evaluated by a medical professional that specializes in concussion management before returning to any type of physical activity.

The LeBauer Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic offers a hotline staffed by a sports medicine concussion specialist who is able to assess reported symptoms and provide recommendations prior to an appointment. Appointments for acute injuries are available within 24 to 48 hours. The Concussion Hotline is staffed on weekdays from 7:30am-4:30pm and patients can also call after hours and leave a voicemail that will be returned the following business day. The Concussion Hotline number is 336-851-8436.

Recover

Diagnosing and treating a concussion requires a comprehensive evaluation. A concussion visit should include the following:

  • A detailed evaluation of symptoms
  • A neurocognitive exam
  • A vestibular ocular motor screening to determine the level of integration of balance, vision, and movement

As part of concussion exams, The LeBauer Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic utilizes the ImPACT  (immediate post-concussion assessment and cognitive testing ) tool. The patient completes six different tasks that help assess memory, visual processing speed, and reaction time.

Ideally, student athletes could complete a baseline ImPACT assessment when they are healthy. Then, if a head injury occurs, ImPACT testing done after the injury can be compared to the baseline. However, test results can also be compared to normative data of patients of similar ages and genders.

Smith is a Certified ImPACT Consultant, as well as a board-certified sports and family medicine physician. The clinic’s director,  Valerie Wolf, is an ImPACT Trained Athletic Trainer. Smith and Wolf work together to put together a detailed treatment plan. If needed, physical therapists are available for patients suffering from prolonged balance issues. The LeBauer neurology team is also available for further evaluation if required.

Individualized Concussion Treatment

“No two concussions are alike,” says Smith. “We create very specific recommendations based on each patient’s clinical assessment and assess progress to determine when the student can safely return to physical activity, practice, and competitive play.  We can also work with school athletic trainers to help monitor how the student is progressing after they return to play.”

The LeBauer Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic is the only dedicated, comprehensive concussion management clinic in the Greensboro area. The clinic treats children as young as age 5, as well as teens and adults.

Need a Concussion Assessment?

If you suspect your student has a concussion, or if you would like to schedule a baseline ImPACT assessment, contact the LeBauer Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic Hotline at 336-851-8436. The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day and no referral is needed. The clinic is located in the LeBauer Sports Medicine Elam Avenue office in Greensboro.

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