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As we head into the midpoint of football season, concussions continue to be a hot topic heavily discussed as a concern across all levels of football. It is important to know and understand the signs and symptoms of a concussion sustained at the time of injury.

A concussion is classified as a “a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by traumatic biomechanical forces”.2  Research states that a higher incidence of concussions are sustained at a lower level of play and skill level.1 Therefore a high school football player would be placed at a greater risk of sustaining a concussion than that of a college or professional athlete. Currently concussions are screened on the sidelines with a verbal assessment performed by an athletic trainer or health professional.

The most common immediate signs of a concussion are: confusion, headache and/or amnesia (memory loss).1,2 If one experiences any of the symptoms above after suffering severe contact to the head, they will be instructed to avoid resuming play. Over the next following days sleep disturbance, sensitivity to light/noise, nausea, blurred vision and balance disturbance are likely to occur.2 If not severe concussion symptoms often last for 7-10 days.3

During the 7-10 day period it is recommended that the player perform physical and cognitive rest. If an adolescent, recovery time may be greater being that the brain is not fully developed and developmental properties can be altered if adequate rest time is not achieved.3 Once all symptoms have resided a slow progression back to physical activity and school activities is recommended, involving light activity followed by non-contact sport specific drills and then contact practice drills prior to returning to play.3

If a player returns to play prior to complete resolution of symptoms, they are placed a greater risk of injury if suffering an additional blow to the head, known as second impact syndrome.4 Second impact syndrome results in greater neurological damage that can be life-threatening.

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  1. Guskiewicz, K., Weaver, N., Padua, D., & Garrett, W. (2000). Epidemiology of Concussion in Collegiate and High School Football Players. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 28(5), 643-650.
  2. Feddermann-Demont, N., Straumann, D., & Dvořák, J. (2014). Return to play management after concussion in football: Recommendations for team physicians. Journal of Sports Sciences, 1-12.
  3. D’hemecourt, P. (2011). Subacute Symptoms of Sports-Related Concussion: Outpatient Management and Return to Play. Clinics in Sports Medicine, 30(1), 63-72.
  4. Mclendon, Kralik, Grayson, & Golomb. (2016). The Controversial Second Impact Syndrome: A Review of the Literature. Pediatric Neurology, 62, 9-17.