Combatting concussion

Concussion is a growing concern for athletes and parents alike, so as the footy season kicks off and other sports get underway, how do you know when you should worry about a blow to the head?

Well, let’s start with what concussion actually is.

Concussion is a brain injury caused by a knock to the head – or to any part of the body – that results in temporary neurological impairment. In 80-90% of cases, symptoms resolve within 7-10 days and not all concussions result in loss of consciousness, so don’t rely on ‘passing out’ to take it seriously.

What are the symptoms of concussion?

Symptoms can be obvious or subtle, but you should seek urgent medical support if there is any sign of:

  • deteriorating consciousness/loss of consciousness

  • neck pain

  • seizure/convulsion

  • increasing confusion/disorientation

  • nausea/vomiting

  • headache

  • weakness/tingling/burning in arms or legs

  • blurred vision

  • dizziness

  • balance problems

  • sensitivity to light or noise

  • unusual behavioural change/irritability/anxiety

  • concentration difficulties

  • memory loss

  • fatigue/low energy

  • sleep difficulties.

Use the Concussion Recognition Tool 5 to help you spot the signs.

What about children?

If a child is experiencing concussion symptoms they might not be able to express them so it’s important to keep a close eye on children and to see a doctor if you’re concerned or if they’re becoming sleepy, dizzy, confused, agitated or displaying other signs of concussion.

Concussion experts have partnered with the AFL to develop the ‘HeadCheck’ app to help coaches, parents and trainers recognise and manage concussion symptoms in children aged 5-18. The free app can be downloaded via the Apple Store for iPhones or via the Google Play Store for Android devices.

When should you see a specialist?

If you are experiencing any symptoms within 7-10 days of your concussion, you should ask your doctor or sports physician to refer you to a specialist.

Outpatient concussion clinics at Epworth Hawthorn and Epworth Geelong – extensions of Epworth Rehabilitation’s renowned Traumatic Brain Injury Unit in Richmond – have been developed to assess and manage those with ongoing post-concussion symptoms.

Looking for more answers?

Epworth Medical Imaging in Geelong, in partnership with Sydney and La Trobe universities – is conducting research using its state-of-the-art MRI scanner to get a better understanding of what happens to the brain following a concussion.

The study, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, is part of a 3-year inquiry and Epworth Geelong’s Clinical Director, Dr Paul Smith, is confident the findings will help to manage the short-term effects – and prevent the long-term effects – of concussion.