Concussion Evaluations

We evaluate and treat athletes with concussion.
When an athlete is suspected of having a concussion, s/he should not return to play the same day. S/he should be evaluated by their primary care or sports medicine physician to determine the presence of a concussion injury and direct the treatment process. An athlete should always be fully recovered and receive written medical clearance from his/her doctor prior to returning to his/her sport.

What is a concussion?
A concussion in a brain injury that occurs when there is a direct blow to the head, forceful rotation of the head and neck, or both, that disrupts the way the brain normally works. A concussion can happen in many sports, but athletes in certain contact and collision sports, like football, soccer, hockey, and wrestling, have a higher risk of getting a concussion.

What are the symptoms of a concussion?
Common symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea, irritability and difficulty concentrating. It is important to note that these symptoms can be subtle and may not occur until a few hours or days after the injury. Children and young adults in school might notice that their symptoms become worse when they try to read or do homework. Exercise also tends to make symptoms worse.

Concussion evaluation and treatment
It is important to properly diagnose a concussion soon after it happens. A sports medicine physician will ask an athlete questions about his or her symptoms, and perform a careful physical examination. The examination includes testing the athlete’s memory, balance and strength. An examination of the neurological system is performed to evaluate for signs of a more severe head injury. In many concussions, the physical examination is normal, so it is very important that the athlete report all symptoms to the sports medicine physician. Imaging, like a computed tomography (CT) scan, is only necessary if the physician thinks it is necessary to evaluate for head injuries other than concussion. Concussions are serious injuries. Multiple concussions may cause permanent symptoms. Treatment of a concussion involves close medical follow up and time. Rest from sport, exercise, and sometimes work or school is required. Appropriate treatment prevents long-term complications.

Return to play
Most concussions improve with time and rest, both physical and cognitive rest. Studies report that concussion symptoms improve in 80-90 percent of athletes by seven days after the injury. It is important to avoid athletic activities immediately after a concussion while symptoms are still present. Athletes should not return to play on the same day of a concussion. Athletes should be evaluated by medical providers for any suspected concussion, and should be reevaluated prior to returning to their sport.

Adapted from “Concussion,” AMSSM Sports Medicine Topics

For more information on concussions in youth sports please visit:
CDC Heads Up to Youth Sports