Concussion Patient Education

Written by Shirley Parker
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For too many years, concussions have been dismissed as minor injuries. Athletes especially have been encouraged to get back in the game after only minutes of rest and little testing for symptoms. Children have been allowed to jump up and start running around again, particularly by dads, who couldn't stand the thought of their child acting like a sissy. Moms and grandmas have usually known better, but have too often lost the argument when dad was around.

In only the past few years, education of coaches, athletes and family members has been geared toward preventing tragedy that doesn't have to happen. Concussion is classified as mild, moderate or severe, but concussion is not a minor injury. In all cases, where there are symptoms of concussion, a player needs to be kept away--for varying lengths of time--from whatever sport he was playing, until those symptoms subside. Getting the patient's cooperation can be difficult, especially if he doesn't want to tell the truth.

A second concussion incurred while a patient is still suffering from the damage of the first concussion can be a deadly occurrence. It's called Second Impact Syndrome (SIS). SIS occurs whenever an athlete who suffers a mild head injury returns too soon to the game or the sport. When the brain incurs even a minor second hit before it has fully healed from the first one, pressure within the brain increases with disastrous results. The athlete may become paralyzed, suffer mental impairment, develop epilepsy, or even die. And of course, this can happen to anyone who has suffered a concussion for any reason.

Grading the Severity of a Concussion

According to the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, there is no actual consensus on grading the severity of a concussion. Some 16 different guidelines do exist as a basis for evaluation, although two sets of them are usually followed in the United States. These were formulated by the American Academy of Neurology and by Robert C. Cantu, MD. Dr. Cantu is Chief, Neurosurgery Service, and Director of Service of Sports Medicine, Emerson Hospital, Concord, Massachusetts.

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