How Sports Medicine Can Treat Concussions

Sports Medicine Manalapan Township, NJ

Any blow, bump, or severe jolt to the head can result in a concussion, which is a common brain injury amongst athletes. A sports medicine physician is skilled in diagnosing and treating concussions, which is most prevalent in high-contact or high-risk sports and activities such as biking, hockey, football, gymnastics, soccer, and wrestling.

Sports medicine diagnosis

Treatment for a concussion in a sports medicine clinic will include a series of questions and examinations to determine the severity of damage to memory, balance, strength, and overall brain function.

Neurological examination

The sports medicine physician will ask about existing symptoms and the circumstances surrounding the injury. They will also inquire about recent changes in sleep patterns, mood, or behavior.

A neurological exam will include a look at reflexes and brain function. Eyes will be checked to determine reaction to light, eye movement, and vision functionality. The patient's coordination, reflexes, and balance will be examined for possible impairment. Concussions sometimes affect hearing, so that will be assessed. Neck muscles will be examined for tenderness and range of motion. Strength and sensation will also be checked.

Additional computerized, verbal, or written assessments may check the patient's concentration skills, memory, thinking capacity, level of recall, and problem-solving skills. 

Imaging tests

While advanced imaging is not generally used in an initial concussion evaluation, they are used for more serious cases. If the patient has specific symptoms such as seizures, severe headaches, or vomiting, the sports medicine physician will recommend additional imaging tests to identify potential spine injury or swelling or bleeding within the skull.

  • Cranial computed tomography (CT) scans are used to assess damage to the brain immediately following an injury. Using a series of X-rays, the scan produces a 3D image of bone and soft tissue that the sports medicine team will use for diagnosis.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses radio waves and magnets to create comprehensive images of the brain without X-rays. This is used to pinpoint changes to the brain and diagnose any potential complications.

Treatment

While the sports medicine provider may recommend an overnight stay in the hospital for observation, the treatment plan is mostly completed at home. Physical and mental rest is recommended for 48 hours following a concussion. The patient should limit activities that require mental exertion, including reading, schoolwork, television, video games, cell phones or computers. Physical activities including sports, general physical exertion, or vigorous movement should be limited until symptoms are lessened.

Following the relative rest period, daily activities like screen time can be increased gradually as tolerated. Light physical activity and exercise is encouraged as it has been linked to faster recovery; however, risky activities that could result in additional head trauma should be avoided until the patient is completely recovered.

Conclusion

A concussion is a serious condition for athletes that should be properly evaluated by a sports medicine professional. By obtaining a proper diagnosis and following an appropriate treatment protocol, injured athletes should improve within a week of sustaining the injury.

Athletes who suspect a concussion following head trauma should see a sports medicine professional immediately. Call our office to schedule a comprehensive exam.

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