Sport-Related Concussions: Risks, Prevention and Treatment

Sport-related concussions are a concern for athletes of all ages, but especially for youth and adolescents. Athletes in middle and high school have been shown to suffer important short- and long-term problems after one or more concussions. These athletes often take more time than adults to recover from the immediate symptoms of concussions and require prolonged time away from school and physical activities. Concussed athletes have shown lasting problems with memory, cognition and even difficulties with balance following concussions. Prevention and treatment of concussions continues to be a focus for sports medicine professionals.

What are the risks?

A major factor linked to concussions in athletes is previous injury. A large study conducted by ATI Physical Therapy, Greenville Health System and Greenville County Schools examined the factors around concussion injuries over a four-year span. This study found if high school athletes had a leg injury during a sport season, they had five times greater risk of sustaining a concussion within the same season compared to uninjured players (RR= 4.7; 95% CI = 4.2-5.2). Athletes often play with injuries like ankle sprains, but have difficulty with balance and are sometimes unable to avoid contact with athletes based on problems stopping or changing direction.

What is being done to prevent injury?

Changes to rules, education, equipment and training have been initiated with a goal of preventing concussions by limiting head contacts in hockey, football, soccer and many other sports. Every state in the U.S. has enacted laws requiring players suspected of suffering a concussion to be removed from play and addressing coach, player and parent education. However, these changes have not significantly reduced the number and impact of concussions. Sport-related concussions remain a challenge to prevent and manage for the medical community and an important public health concern.

What should you do after injury? 

Athletes that sustain an injury or concussion should tell their team physician, athletic trainer or physical therapist. These sports medicine providers can make sure the athlete has proper mobility and strength to protect themselves as they return to the field of play. If the athlete cannot properly run, cut and avoid contact, their athletic trainer or physical therapist can provide exercises and guidance to help them regain full health and safely play.

How ATI can help

Focus on athletes avoiding any injuries.

  • ATI athletic trainers provide consistent services at the schools from preseason through the entire school year including education, prevention services and treatment.
  • Communicate with parents, coaches, teachers and team physicians to help athletes succeed on and off the field.

Prepare athletes to get back to school and their sport.

  • ATI physical therapy offers free screenings at their clinics for healthy and injured athletes to make sure athletes are at their best.

Are aches and pains preventing you from getting back in the game?

If you have sustained an injury and are unsure of the steps needed to get back to life before the injury, stop by your nearest ATI Physical Therapy clinic for a complimentary screening and get back to doing you. Our team will assess your injury, provide next step suggestions in care and get you on your way!

By: Ellen Shanley, PhD, PT, OCS for ATI Physical Therapy

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