Head injuries, primarily concussions, are one of the greatest dangers in sports. From boxing, where athletes exchange blows to the cranium, to soccer, where players hit the ball with their skull, athletes regularly risk head injuries. Even in more mundane sports, such as cross-country skiing or rollerblading, a bad fall can result in a concussion. Here is a guide on safely recovering from sports-related head injuries.
Prevention is the Best Recovery
“The best defense is a good offense” is a common adage in sports. The same principle holds true for head injuries: the best recovery is prevention. If athletes can reduce the risk of a head injury, then they might never need to go through the recovery process.
There are two aspects to prevention. In some sports, such as boxing and biking, a helmet should be worn. Helmets protect people’s heads, and there are specially-designed ones available for almost every sport. In addition to wearing the correct protective gear, athletes must learn how to protect their head during play. For instance, soccer players must learn how to head the ball safely. Likewise, boxers focus on keeping their hands in front of their face.
Knowing the Signs and Symptoms
Fellow players and coaches should immediately recognize potential concussion scenarios. These must be treated with extreme caution, because further injury can be devastating. Everyone playing, but especially coaches, referees and trainers, should know the signs and symptoms of a concussion:
- Weakness or numbness
- Decreased coordination
The above symptoms should be treated by a medical professional soon. Athletes suffering from the signs and symptoms below should immediately be taken to the emergency room.
- Different-sized pupils
- Slurred speech
- Confusion or anger
In addition to knowing these signs and symptoms, it is important to realize that they might not be immediately apparent. Athletes can be fine immediately following a hit to the head but exhibit serious symptoms later.
The recovery process begins as soon as a head injury is sustained. Athletes must be taken out of play and not allowed to return until they are evaluated by a medical professional.
As with any injury, giving a specific recovery time is nearly impossible. It can take people anywhere from a few hours to several weeks to recover from a head injury. Factors that influence the duration are the person’s physical condition, the person’s age, the severity of the initial injury and the area of the injury.
Cornell has outlined the following process for collegiate athletes who suffered from a brain injury. Others would be wise to follow these steps in recovery.
- Rest until brain activity has returned to normal
- Aerobic exercise
- Exercises specific to the sport
- Non-contact training
- Full-contact training
- Return to play.
A medical professional must oversee this process, and Cornell advises devoting at least 24 hours to each step. If symptoms return at any time, then the process is restarted from step 1.
Because head injuries require professional attention, athletes should ask their own doctor about concussions. This was based on research from several sites, including Cornell University.
About the author: John Tolve writes for BoxFitUK, which helps boxers reduce the risk of head injuries by wearing headguards.