Got your bell rung? Seeing stars? If you’re an athlete, use your head. If you have a concussion – or even if you think you might – leave the game, see a doctor and don’t return until you recover. The health of your brain depends on it.
“A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury usually caused by blunt force or acceleration type injuries,” says Heidi J. Hunter, MD, physiatrist and brain injury specialist at Saint Francis Medical Center. “Normally, the fluid around your brain acts like a cushion that keeps your brain protected. In a blunt force injury, if your head or body is hit hard, your brain can crash into your skull and be injured. Athletes who sustain a concussion should always be evaluated by a physician and receive medical clearance before returning to play.”
Hunter and her team at Saint Francis’ Concussion Clinic can help student athletes and other concussed patients manage their recovery, which includes a period of cognitive rest. Concussed athletes who return to play before their symptoms are resolved and their brain is fully healed put themselves at unnecessary risk of additional concussions and brain damage. Although concussions are rarely life-threatening, they can disrupt normal brain functioning in the short and long term – especially if they are left untreated.
National healthcare and athletic organizations agree the risk is not worth taking. Partially in response to several recent high-profile cases of brain damage among professional athletes, multiple organizations have intensified their efforts to educate athletes about the severity of concussions. The NCAA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have teamed up to advise young athletes to take their concussion symptoms seriously and seek medical help. If you think you have a concussion, their websites remind you to report the symptoms to your coach, get checked out by a healthcare professional and take time to recover properly. Saint Francis’ Concussion Clinic is available for appointments at Cape Neurology Specialists, 3004 Gordonville Road, Cape Girardeau. For more information, visit www.sfmc.net or call 573-331-3996.