People who experience a sports concussion often expect symptoms to appear right away. Their coaches and team doctors may believe the same thing. However, it is common for symptoms of a sports concussion not to appear for several hours, days, or even weeks after the initial injury.
Concussion Signs to Look for After a Concussive Sports Injury
People who play sports at any level, along with their coaches and team doctors, should be able to recognise the signs of a concussion. The most common ones include:
- Appearing stunned or dazed
- Slurred speech
- Confusion of time and place
- Difficulty with balance and coordination
- Loss of consciousness, even for a few seconds
- Behaviour, mood, and personality changes
- Migraine headaches
- Sleep disturbance
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Blurry or double vision
- Nausea or vomiting
The team doctors should complete a concussion protocol even if the injured player shows few or no symptoms right away. Ongoing monitoring is also essential as the days and weeks go by. Players with a sports concussion should follow the guidelines outlined below regardless of when symptoms first appear.
Rest is Critical in the First 48 Hours After a Concussion
Concussed players should leave the game immediately and get home to rest as soon as possible. They need to avoid any activities that could jar their head or potentially cause second impact syndrome.
The brain requires as little stimulation as possible during the first few days after a concussion, which means injured players should avoid using smartphones and tablets, watching television, or using any other electronic devices. Remaining active and not resting the brain during this critical period can set recovery back considerably.
If a doctor gives the okay, it is usually fine to slowly ease back into activities 48 hours after experiencing a sports concussion. Returning to school or work and limited use of electronics is typically fine, but injured players should not return to the game just yet. Players who notice any of their concussion symptoms returning or new ones developing should stop their activities and contact their doctor.
What is Second Impact Syndrome?
Second impact syndrome is a brain injury that occurs before an injured player has recovered from the initial concussion. The injury is severe and causes the brain to swell. People who sustain second impact syndrome often die from it or live with severe disabilities for the rest of their lives. Death or disability can result within minutes of players sustaining a second brain injury.
When a person experiences sudden impact syndrome, the brain immediately ceases the ability to regulate spinal fluid pressure. The jolt to the brain does not need to be severe for swelling to occur within minutes. The most critical aspect of second impact syndrome is the player’s head snapping back in response to a minor blow to the chest, head, or back. The head suddenly moving backward causes the brain to move inside the skull and triggers the potentially fatal swelling.
Symptoms of Second Impact Syndrome and How to Prevent It
When someone who has not yet recovered from a sports concussion experiences an impact that causes the head to snap back, they often look stunned but may be able to reach the sidelines themselves. Unfortunately, they usually collapse within a few minutes. Loss of consciousness, dilated pupils, lack of eye movement, and respiratory failure often follow.
Evaluating players who have had one concussion for ongoing symptoms such as dizziness, blurry vision, nausea, and disorientation is critical to prevent second impact syndrome. Coaches, team doctors, and players themselves must follow established concussion protocols to reduce the risk of such a serious and potentially tragic outcome.