Playing football or soccer or hockey, as well as baseball or basketball, where a player can suffer a sudden, strong hit to the head can mean a life-altering brain injury where the aftermath may not reveal itself for several years. This is especially true if there is not immediate treatment of the head injury (and there may not be if the student or player denies, ignores, or refuses to be treated at the time of the hit).
Accordingly, parents, teachers, coaches, and others need to recognize the symptoms of minor brain injuries and concussions in players and athletes.
1. From the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) comes the warning that mild brain injuries and concussions are most often determined by (1) how they happened and (2) the symptoms that manifest at the time.
The neurosurgeons look for 3 things which are signs of mental confusion:
- Inability to maintain a coherent stream of thought
- A disturbance of awareness with heightened distractibility
- Inability to carry out a sequence of goal-directed movements
These doctors also warn everyone that if you see any of these symptoms in a player or athlete, then they need to be taken to a doctor for evaluation of brain injury:
- Prolonged headache
- Vision disturbances
- Nausea or vomiting
- Impaired balance
- Memory loss
- Ringing ears
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sensitivity to light
- Loss of smell or taste
2. The Mayo Clinic points out that mild brain injuries and concussions may not have any immediate symptoms. Children and adults may suffer permanent injury but not realize it at the time of impact — and the brain may reveal its injuries in hours or days to come. These symptoms can last for a long time — weeks, even months.
At the time of the injury or within a day or two of it, look for:
- Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
- Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
- Dizziness or “seeing stars”
- Ringing in the ears
- Slurred speech
- Delayed response to questions
- Appearing dazed
Within several hours of the incident or even days after the injury, look for:
- Concentration and memory complaints
- Irritability and other personality changes
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Sleep disturbances
- Psychological adjustment problems and depression
- Disorders of taste and smell
- Symptoms in children
3. The CDC warns that brain injuries can cause death and this may not be immediate. Traumatic brain injuries and concussions can kill people hours or even days after they have been hurt.
From the CDC, seek emergency medical treatment for these symptoms:
- Headache that gets worse and does not go away.
- Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination.
- Repeated vomiting or nausea.
- Slurred speech.
- Look very drowsy or cannot be awakened.
- Have one pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other.
- Have convulsions or seizures.
- Cannot recognize people or places.
- Are getting more and more confused, restless, or agitated.
- Have unusual behavior.
- Lose consciousness (a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously and the person should be carefully monitored).