Ask a PT: Can you prevent Concussions?

By Nathan Swan, DPT

Concussion PreventionApproximately 1.6 million to 3.8 million concussions occur each year in the US. Yikes! Among the leading causes for concussions are car accidents, bicycle accidents, falls, and sports related accidents. Obviously, preventing concussions is a large undertaking requiring help from many organizations. However, one of the best ways to prevent and treat concussions is education and awareness of the public. Speaking of, here are some facts about concussions you might not have known:

  • After football, ice hockey and soccer pose the highest risk of concussions among youth sports
  • The leading cause of concussions among youth is bicycle accidents (including other wheeled devices such as skateboards, rollerblades, etc.)
  • An impact to the head is not required to get a concussion
  • Concussions are caused by a rapid acceleration or deceleration to your head. The brain (suspended in fluid) either slams into your skull the direction the force is coming from or rebounds back and hits the other side of the skull
  • Children actually need more time to heal from a concussion than adults
  • You are more at risk for a concussion if you have had a previous concussion (risk increases after each concussion), are female, or have a history of migraines

While wearing helmets when appropriate and avoiding risky behavior like leading with your head when tackling in football or lowering your head when checking in hockey are important to prevent a concussion, sometimes concussions are unavoidable. That is why early diagnosis and proper treatment are of the utmost importance, especially for youth. If a second concussion happens before healing has occurred rapid and sometimes fatal swelling can occur (second-impact syndrome). Common symptoms of a concussion include headache, dizziness, loss of memory, confusion, sensitivity to light, loss of balance, and nausea. You should tell your athletic trainer, physical therapist, or physician as soon as you suspect a concussion. The combination of education and awareness of the public, baseline testing for sports (to use as comparison for diagnosis), skilled clinical care, and appropriate guidelines for return to activity are all important in the prevention and treatment of concussions.