Post-Concussion Considerations

Serenity Now WellnessPsychotherapy1 Comment

Back-to-school time marks the return to busy evenings, suppers on the run, and races to the next after-school activity. With the growing awareness of the impact of concussions, it is not surprising that back-to-sport time can be worrying for some parents, particularly if your child enjoys active sports.

Concussion in sport is a hot-button issue in the media. From Will Smith’s 2015 blockbuster Concussion[1], to the growing recognition of permanent brain injury in football players[2], to hockey fans following Sidney Crosby’s recovery[3], we are now more cautious about player safety than ever before. Concussions can result from a blow to the head, face, neck or elsewhere on the body with an impulsive force transmitted to the head. The most common immediate symptoms of concussion include headaches, dizziness, nausea, seeing stars, amnesia, and poor balance, and the individual may or may not lose consciousness[4]. Typically, these are short-lived and resolve on their own within a week to three months.

But for some, post-concussion symptoms can be long-lasting, for a year or more, with significant impact on everyday functioning. Headache, dizziness, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, concentration and memory problems, and noise and light sensitivity are the most common lingering post-concussion symptoms. These symptoms keep young people out of the game and, in serious cases, out of school. What’s more, this time away from sport, friends, and school can be isolating for the youth. Aside from the physical symptoms, mental health can be seriously impacted by concussion. Lingering symptoms can result in feelings of loneliness, missing out, lack of support, anxiety about being able to return to the same level of performance, irritability, and moodiness.

Although any person with a suspected concussion should be examined and cleared by a physical before returning to play, knowing how well your brain is functioning pre- and post-injury can give you data to make this decision. However, it is rare for most young people to have had prior testing before their first concussion. This results in a bit of a conundrum – how can I know how much my cognitive functioning has declined if I don’t have anything to compare it to? Are my cognitive symptoms due to post-concussion symptoms, or is my lack of concentration and poor memory a result of having to be away from my friends and the game? These are important considerations when deciding whether to return to school, to training, or back into the game.

For those participating in competitive, elite-level sports, it is near impossible to determine if your child’s cognitive performance is back to par, without baseline testing. If your child has already experienced a concussion, post-injury data can be just as valuable in your discussion about returning to play.

Here at Serenity Now, we can help you make that decision by providing you with a specialized, individual assessment of cognitive and executive functioning, and consulting with your medical professional. If you are interested in a baseline or a post-concussion assessment before the season starts, please contact us. Our assessment psychologist is happy to provide you with a 15-minute free consultation to help you and your athlete make the right choice.

Andrea Stelnicki, MSc

[1] http://www.concussion-movie.com/
[2]http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/30/us/nfl-concussions-fast-facts/index.html
[3]https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/10/nhl-concussions/503768/
[4]http://www.parachutecanada.org/downloads/programs/activeandsafe/Concussion_Guidelines_for_Physicians.pdf

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