By Robb Beams
In a previous article I outlined what happens to the brain when a concussion is experienced, and the four stages associated with a concussion. (Note: if you need a copy of this article, please email me and I will send you a copy of the article). In this article I want to outline the associated dangers and side effects of a concussion.
Defining a Concussion
Research has validated that you don’t have to be knocked unconscious to be classified as a concussion. We now know that a hard hit to the head without losing consciousness can result in damage to the brain tissue and the neurons and nerves embedded within this tissue. Initial symptoms of concussion include, but are not limited to disorientation, headache, vertigo (loss of balance), nausea and vomiting. The secondary symptoms include, but are not limited to mood swings, insomnia (not able to sleep), memory loss, inability to talk without slurring, sensitivity to noise and light, sudden symptoms of being clumsy and unable to hold onto things without dropping them unintentionally.
Health Dangers Associated with a Concussion (only made worse by multiple concussions)
You have rattled your brain, extensive research has validated that a second mild concussion shortly after the first can add up to a lifetime of physical disability (troubles with balance, walking, eating, etc.) and cognitive disorders (inability to focus, remember, perceive analyze and blend sounds, delayed processing speed which makes it difficult to take a test, tie your shoes or answer questions).
How to Handle a Concussion
First and foremost, discontinue any more activity – no matter what anyone says (reference the long-term complications outlined above)! According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, the following criteria must be met before a patient is released from the hospital after incurring a concussion:
Patient is alert, oriented and able to follow simple commands
Patient has no suggestion of skull fracture (which can include some subtle signs, such as bruising around the eyes or behind the ears, blood behind the eardrums, or clear fluid leaking from the nose or ears)
Patient isn’t taking aspirin or other anticoagulants (a substance that keeps the blood from clotting)
Patient hasn’t had a seizure
Patient can remember events up to 30 minutes before the injury
Patient is younger than 65 years of age
Ironically, even if you pass the criteria outlined above, the next round of questions stems around the nature of your concussion:
Did you fall from higher than three feet?
Did you vomit more than once after the injury?
Were in a car accident?
(Did the practice crash lead to a strange decision during the main event?)
If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you need to cat a CAT scan (CT Scan) of your head to ensure that there are no signs of inflammation or swelling. If the CT scan comes back normal, you will need to ensure that someone is with you at your place of residence to wake you up every two hours and ask you simple questions like: What is your name, what is today’s date, when is your birthday, etc.?).
How Long to Wait Before Resuming Training & Racing
This decision needs to be made by a qualified physician and no one else. When you realize that you are making a decision about your brain and your long-term health, clearance to resume training and racing needs to be made with medically backed supervision. The reason for this is two-fold. First, the physician is providing you feedback without emotion: your body is either ready to resume training and racing or it isn’t. Second, if your physician is saying that you are not ready to train and race, he/she is keeping you from injuring yourself worse. This occurs as a result of your brain not being clear and the lack of skills necessary to safely train, ride and race: depth perception, ability to process speed, etc. This situation will result in you hitting the ground again and causing not only a delay in your return, but worse, causing more damage to your head and associated bodily functions.
I realize that you love to train and race, but you have to respect the fact that you have only been provided one brain and it is literally the center of your existence – if your brain is injured, the rest of your life will suffer. No puns intended, but think about this…