Advances in Healthcare

Concussions Make a Big ImPACT on Player Performance


It’s that time of year again – the scent of pumpkin spice is in the air and our beloved football is back to fill our weekends. It’s no surprise that football is rough on an athlete’s body, and today’s Roper St. Francis, Powered by ATI Injury Analyst dropped in to give us some background on concussions
, as males have a 75% chance of enduring a concussion while playing with the pigskin.

Football player on field

Matt Stapleton, physical therapist and senior regional director with Roper St. Francis Physical Therapy, Powered by ATI, shared a little bit with us about concussions, how to prevent them, and how to properly treat them.

What concussions are…

Concussions occur when trauma affects the brain. Put simply, they are an injury to the brain. Symptoms of a concussion can range from headaches and nausea to difficulty concentrating to changes in energy. These neurological disbalances are a result of a direct or indirect blow to the head that has caused the brain to move rapidly inside the skull.

How to diagnose concussions…

Unlike a broken leg or bruised wrist, it’s impossible to physically see a concussion. Therefore, they can use an ImPACT test, a type of neuro-cognitive assessment that helps determine if an athlete is ready to return to play post-concussion. Athletes must take their original ImPACT test before hitting the field to determine their baseline scores. If an athlete is suspected to have a concussion, they can retake the ImPACT test to see if they are back at their baseline or need to spend more time recovering. As Matt says, athletes with concussions – even mild ones – rarely pass the ImPACT test on their first attempt and therefore have to retake it until they can pass and safely return to play.

How to treat concussions…

Matt says that the best treatment for a concussion is rest. It’s important for the brain to decompress and not be stimulated by a lot of activity. Initially, there’s not much physical therapists can do for a concussion besides suggest a resting period.

football players running a play

However, if the concussion does not subside, physical therapists can try vestibular rehabilitation, a type of balance rehab which can help with dizziness or nausea. Once an athlete’s headaches have subsided and they’re ready to get back to play, physical therapists will do sports-specific training with them to determine their ability to return. For football players, this may include cuts, tackles, or catches.

How to prevent concussions…

  • Wear proper gear:In football, it’s necessary to have a helmet that fits properly. In addition, players should be sure to wear quality footwear to help prevent slips or falls.
  • Practice good technique:Football players should be sure to understand and use proper technique on the field, such as never tackling head first.
  • Rest:If an athlete does suffer from a concussion, it’s important to take some time off before returning to play. Stimulating the brain too soon, especially in the form of a football game or practice, can be detrimental to the athlete’s health and wellbeing.

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