By Grant Lumkong
Concussion in professional sports receives substantial media attention, but we must not forget our youth.
Every year hundreds of young athletes in St. Lucia suffer from concussions. Youth are especially vulnerable to concussion since they are undergoing active brain development. Unfortunately, underreporting and underdiagnosing are major concerns. A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that 80% of youth rugby players did not report a concussion or returned to play before full recovery. Another study showed that 5 of 10 concussions go undetected. These studies raise the question: How aware are young athletes and coaches about the symptoms and seriousness of sports-related concussions?
I was unaware of the seriousness of concussion until I suffered repeated concussions while playing my favorite sport, football, as a young teenager. My whole life changed one day when I collided heads with a player of the opposing team, resulting in my first concussion. Other concussions followed over the next two years. This is not uncommon, as an athlete is 4 to 6 times more likely to have a second concussion. After a neurologist told me that I could face serious long-term consequences if I continued to play contact sports, I made the difficult decision to hang up my boots for good.
Now I aim to raise awareness about youth sports-related concussion in the Caribbean community. My hope is that we can prevent, recognize, and understand the effects of concussions in order to keep our young athletes safe and playing their favorite sports for many years to come.
What are the common signs and symptoms of concussion?
The most common symptoms are headache, fatigue, confusion, dizziness, sensitivity to light, and decreased concentration. Loss of consciousness occurs in less than 5% of cases.
What do I do if I suspect a concussion?
You must be removed from play immediately. The phrase, “When in doubt, sit it out”, is crucial. A recurrent concussion before the brain has completely healed may lead to Second Impact Syndrome- or SIS- which although rare, leads to long term brain damage or even death.
What do I do after removing from play?
Contact a medial provider as soon as possible. X-Rays and CT scans cannot show structural changes in the brain from concussion. For this reason, concussion is considered an “invisible injury”and radiography is usually not necessary. The doctor will recommend a period of rest and will work closely with the athlete to plan a gradual, safe return to sport.
How soon can I return to school and sport after concussion?
Never judge the severity of an injury on your own. A student’s return to school and sports should be carefully managed and monitored by a healthcare provider.
Where can I get more information?Https://caribbeanconcussion.com and https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/youthsports/index.html
Let’s all work together to keep our young athletes healthy by raising awareness in our community about the signs, symptoms, and risks of sports-related concussions.