Head injuries can lead to serious, long-term problems for young athletes.
The awareness and precautions are amplified for head and brain injuries, especially in sports. According to physiotherapist Sam Dalk with Active Physio Works in Fort Saskatchewan, athletes may be returning to practices and games too soon after suffering a concussive blow.
"We always urge a bit more of a conservative approach with the return to competition. Even if you're starting to feel pretty good, just take those one to two extra weeks, just to make sure you're being safe as possible," said Dalk. "It doesn't always have to be direct contact with the head. What causes a concussion is that there is a component of the head accelerating and then decelerating."
In a concussion, the brain may bounce or twist inside the skull, damaging or stretching cells. The damage can cause physical and chemical changes to how it operates. Main concussion symptoms with young athletes include temporary loss of consciousness, dizziness, ear ringing, nausea and vomiting.
"The hard part is those initial symptoms won't always be the same and are going to happen within the first 15 minutes."
Long-term problems may be memory loss, trouble concentrating, sleep disturbances, irritability to light/noise and other psychological problems.
According to Dalk, recent research shows symptomatic recovery is going to happen in one to two weeks. Physiological and metabolic recovery, and making sure the person is safe to go back to sports typically takes three to four weeks.
For sports like hockey or football, most concussions come from a collision at a high speed. While contact sports may come to mind as the most dangerous for concussions, Dalk added that isn't always the case.
"Hockey is really the majority of what we'll see here in the winter, but it really is a wide variety. Some other common ones in Fort Saskatchewan are gymnastics and volleyball," commented Dalk.
Dalk recommends getting checked out immediately by a doctor or physiotherapist after an incident. It's important coaches, trainers and parents know what to look for with concussions.
Most importantly, don't rush back to the ice, field or gym.