Back in the day, a doctor might have told you to lie in a dark room for 24 hours while you recover from a concussion. Another time, a physician might have advised you not to let the person fall asleep – continually waking them while they get out of the watch period.
Today, the rules for how you care for a concussion have certainly changed, especially in sports.
Unfortunately, the rules for sports and how they handle injured players have not changed as much as they should, and the number of players developing degenerative brain disorders or other long-term complications have only further proven such.
However, the new detection and treatment rules released by the U.S. government might reduce the number of repetitive injuries, especially in children.
In September, reports were issued that focused on the latest guidelines for child concussions, including what tests should be run, what might be unnecessary, and when to worry.
What Are the Standards from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?
Right now, the CDC recommends against using x-rays and blood tests to diagnose brain trauma, and they also tell parents to be on the lookout for more worrisome symptoms. If a child displays any of the more serious symptoms, then CT imaging and in-depth MRI studies may be necessary to rule out long-term damage.
The CDC’s guidelines for concussions (like those from sports, falls, and accidents) involve physical and mental rest, including staying out of school and sports immediately following a concussion. Gradually, a child might be reintroduced into those activities as the brain heals.
Children should be watched for any severe signs, such as lack of balance, chronic headaches, vomiting, or lethargy.
Changes in the Recognition and Perception Are the Key
Not even ten years ago, field concussions in sports were considered a “shake it off” type of thing. In fact, if the player did not lose consciousness, coaches hustled them back out on the field, assuming that they were fine.
Today, research and medical advancements has taught us better. Now, coaches and parents are aware that they cannot tell a child just to shake it off, and any severe trauma to the head requires medical attention – not returning to the field and shaking it off.
Also, more coaches are going through concussion protocol training. Even volunteer sports coaches in local leagues are being required to undergo the training. The American Academy of Neurology, a trusted resource for sports concussion advice, has created resources for parents of children in sports and coaches so that they can better identify a potential concussion and respond appropriately.
Recognizing that Concussions Are Not One-Size-Fits-All
The most important thing for parents and coaches to realize is that one child’s concussion symptoms might vary from the next; therefore, they cannot compare and assume that it is the basis for diagnosing.
Also, coaches and parents need to be aware that sub-concussive events still require monitoring and rest. These do not result in a concussion, but can create long-term effects if the child does not receive proper rest and suffers from a true concussive event shortly after.
What Is the Recommended Treatment Today?
Whether it is an adult, child, teen, or a professional hockey player, the recommendations for treatment have certainly changed. While in-depth testing is not required to diagnose a concussion, and often a simple neuro examination is more than enough to diagnose, the treatment remains strict, including the most critical treatment: rest.
Doctors will tell patients to take time off from physical and mental activities, including school, work, and sports. They cannot return to these activities until the symptoms start to go away, and a typical concussive event can last six to ten days – depending on severity. Most people feel better within a week, especially if they follow their doctors’ orders.
Other advice used today for treating a concussion:
- Adequate Sleep – Now is not the time to stay up late. Instead, going to bed early and getting enough sleep during the night and even naps during the day is best. The day of keeping someone awake after a concussion proved false. In fact, sleep is one of the best ways to heal a traumatized brain.
- Avoid Stimuli – One of the hardest, but most important, treatments are avoiding sensory and visual stimuli because this stresses the brain. That means no TV, music, video games, or anything that is considered a stimulus. Reading a book is acceptable, but most screen activities are prohibited during the brain rest period.
- Eating Right – A good diet will help the body heal faster, even with a concussion.
- Easing Back – Instead of showing up to work for a full eight hours on day eight of recovery, a person should ease into their activities slowly and never add everything back at once. That might mean going back to school half day, then eventually making it all day, then slowly adding back after school activities and leaving anything strenuous or physical for last.
- Get a Doctor’s Approval First – Many patients will feel that they are okay, and they return to work or school earlier than they should. It is imperative that a concussion victim seek medical clearance before resuming regular activities.
- Avoid Anything that Might Lead to a Concussive Event – Subsequent concussions on an already concussed brain can result in complications, including some that are fatal. Sports, amusement park rides, and even going to the playground are all off limits until the doctor says otherwise.
- Do Not Drive or Operate Machinery – Driving and operating heavy machinery, including riding a motorcycle or regular bicycle, are prohibited during recovery. These require multiple visual and cognitive inputs, which can stress a brain under recovery.
- Avoid Alcohol and Medications – Under no circumstance should a person with a concussion consume alcohol. Likewise, the only medications taken to treat the concussion should be prescribed by a physician. Over-the-counter medications may interact with prescriptions but also lead to further complications.
Resuming Activities the Right Way
After a few days of brain and physical rest, a person can usually return to normal activities – but at a slow pace.
Cognitive activities can be resumed once the symptoms have dissipated. However, a person should do so cautiously and consider the following tips:
- Consult with a Physician First – A physician might clear you to clean your house, but they have not cleared you to play video games or go back to football practice. You need to ask your primary doctor or the neurologist treating you if you can return to your regular schedule. Often, this requires an assessment of the initial injury, symptoms, and the type of activity you want to resume.
- Discuss Work and School Accommodations – Whether returning to your job or you have a child returning to school, you want to consult with those in charge and see about reducing the workload and hours required, at first. Easing back into these activities is better for the brain than taking them all on immediately after recovering. Furthermore, you might only be cleared for light activity until you have fully recovered – and full recovery can take weeks or months for more serious concussions.
- Increase in Increments – Start by reading a book. If you stay symptom-free following that, try rereading a book later that day or the next day. Eventually, you can graduate to working on the computer, but only in short spurts. Do not sit in front of the screen for extended hours while adding these in slowly; this may stress your concussed brain. You can add on more activities that require cognitive abilities, and slowly increase their times as well.
When it comes time to resume physical activities, the protocol is as follows:
- Start with Light Aerobic Exercise: This exercise is light, such as five or ten minutes of stationary biking or taking a very short, easy walk.
- Move into Moderate Exercise: Once cleared by a physician, you can move into more rigorous activities, such as jogging. However, not at the rate you once performed.
- Move into Non-Contact Sports or Exercise: More vigorous exercises are added at this point, but still nothing involving contact sports. This phase takes longer because a patient needs first to ensure symptoms do not return while playing vigorous sports.
- Enter Light Contact: If in sports, the patient can enter back into their contact sport, but only light touching.
- Resume Normal Activities: After several weeks of easing into sports and light contact, now a player can try resuming regular sports and, hopefully, without further complication.
Know Your Rights When Head Trauma Occurs
If you or a loved one suffered from severe head trauma due to someone’s negligence, you might be entitled to compensation under the law. Concussions in sports where coaches and leagues fail to protect players, or head trauma resulting from premises liability, all fall under negligence. When someone is negligent, serious injuries can occur and a victim should not have to shoulder the financial burden.
The attorneys at Berkowitz Hanna understand the complexities of these types of cases, and we are here to help you secure the compensation you deserve so that you can restore your financial health. We seek compensation for our clients to cover medical costs, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering as a result of the injury.
Before assuming you have a case or attempting to file a claim yourself, speak with an attorney.
An attorney serves as your advocate. They understand the law and the restraints Connecticut statutes place on cases like these. They not only serve as your guide through the procedures, but also aggressively fight for your right to compensation.
When you are injured or you are taking care of a family member who is injured, you want to focus on recovery. Let an attorney handle the paperwork, insurance companies, and negotiations.