A hard hit on the football field, a loose ball on the basketball court, and a collision in a soccer game can all lead to an injury. And while some injuries are inevitable in contact sports, concussions are serious and require special care and treatment.
Concussions are more than a bump to the head. And they're not always easy to spot. Learn the best practices—including signs and symptoms—for head injuries in sports.
What Is a Concussion?
Many people think a concussion is just a minor bump or a bruise to the head when someone takes a hard hit or gets their "clock cleaned," but a concussion is not something that should be taken lightly.
"A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI)," says Michael Busby, a San Diego-based certified athletic trainer. "It occurs after a blow, bump or jolt to the head that disrupts the brain's normal function. A concussion can also happen after a blow to the body that causes a sudden change in direction of the head."
Another common misconception is that an athlete can only sustain a concussion if he or she is knocked unconscious, but according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, most concussions do not cause a loss of consciousness.
While concussions can occur in any sport, they're most common in contact sports such as football, hockey and rugby. Concussions can also occur in soccer when players collide or head the ball, and in basketball when players' heads hit the floor.
Concussion Signs and Symptoms
Concussion symptoms aren't always visual and can be difficult to identify.
When an athlete is knocked down or hit during a game, there are certain things to look for to determine if he or she may have a concussion.
Play should be stopped immediately and a coach and team doctor should look for the following:
- Impaired vision
- Memory loss
- Trouble concentrating
- Balance problems
- Loss of consciousness
- Sensitivity to light/noise
There are also some symptoms that may not occur right away. Late-onset symptoms include:
- Feeling sluggish or lethargic