What You Need to Know About Sports-Related Concussions

Dr. David Wang headshotConcussions are one of the top sports-related injuries, and require prompt diagnosis and treatment. We sat down with David Wang, MD, MS, division head of Connecticut Children’s Sports Medicine division, to talk about concussion prevention, how to recognize the signs and symptoms, and what happens if your young athlete sustains a concussion.

Are there any ways to prevent young athletes from sustaining concussions?  

Helmets do not prevent concussions.

Preventing concussions is actually one of our most difficult challenges. There are multiple ways you can attempt to prevent concussions. You’ll never be able to eliminate them, but one way is rules and regulations—how are the games played? Are the referees confident in stopping overly aggressive illegal plays? So the way that the game is played is one way to impact concussions.

Some believe that conditioning, strength and fitness may decrease likelihood of sustaining a concussion. More specifically, athletes with stronger necks have been reported to have a decreased risk of concussion.

Another way to prevent concussions is to decrease exposure. How many times someone is in a situation where they can be hit.  One of the things that has happened in football is that contact practices have been decreased in an effort to decrease exposure.

Getting adequate sleep is important. Sometimes kids are too overscheduled—they’re going to football practice and then to soccer practice—and these kids are can make themselves more vulnerable to injury because they’ve been overworked.

What are the symptoms and signs of a concussion?

There are a multitude of symptoms but the most common are headache, dizziness, nausea, light or sound sensitivity, feeling slowed down, and confusion.

Signs are what you look like to someone else. The signs of concussion include an athlete that looks dazed, confused, slowed down, or repeating the same thoughts over and over.

What typically happens when an athlete is exhibiting signs of a concussion on the field?

In organized sports, you usually send the teammate to be evaluated on the sidelines. Anyone who suspects they have a concussion should be evaluated. If they do have signs and symptoms of concussion, they need to be removed from practice and play until they’re further evaluated.

How are concussions typically treated?

Depending on the symptoms, the treatments can change. But as an overall game plan, some degree of rest is required the first 24-48 hours, followed by increasing activity in a structured, graded fashion.

Which fall sports are common culprits for concussions?

Soccer and football. Interestingly enough, we will see just as many soccer players in the fall as we do football players.

Is an athlete who has already sustained a concussion more susceptible to other injuries?

There’s a study that came out this year that following a concussion, there’s over a twofold chance of having an orthopedic or musculoskeletal injury. So those people that are returning to play after a concussion have 2.5 times greater risk of suffering an orthopedic injury. The orthopedic injuries that we see most commonly are lower extremity injuries—ankle injuries are extremely common, as are knee injuries.

How does Connecticut Children’s Sports Medicine team help young athletes who have sustained concussions or other injuries?

Elite Sports Medicine is a multi-disciplinary team consisting of physicians and athletic trainers, nutrition and physical therapy. We use our collective experiences and expertise to help the athlete not only with their injury but also with their return to play and their performance.

Connecticut Children’s offers concussion care throughout Connecticut, including Fairfield County.
Learn more about Connecticut Children’s Concussion Management program


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