Sports Concussions & Return to Play Assessments:

Are they necessary? Are they enough?

Concussion symptoms and return-to-play assessments are now a part of basic training for youth soccer, football, and other contact sport coaches at all levels of play. Since this is a fairly new concept, many parents wonder if the new protocols are necessary or if they are overly cautious. So, let me make it clear first, that the precautions are very necessary, the testing is necessary, and rest periods are necessary for anyone who has suffered a concussion. As we continue to understand more about the kind of damage suffered during a concussion, it is even more apparent that these tests are necessary. In fact, even the newest testing procedures and protocols just being implemented in general practice are probably not extensive enough.

Here’s why they are necessary:

We neglect our brains. By age 5, most parents have had their child to the dentist and optometrist for a basic check-up, cleaning, and vision check. Dentists take x-rays as a baseline and to see how well the teeth and mouth are developing. Optometrists check for healthy growth, check vision, assess and sometimes dilate the eyes to check for any abnormalities. However, how many times do we check the inner workings and development of our brains? What tests do we do for a baseline of how our command center, our brain, is functioning? The answer is that as a whole, we do not…but we should!

For the most part, we are reactive and often blind to the fact that many symptoms can have a form of brain damage at the core of the problem. The best way to find and treat brain damage is to have baseline tests for cognitive function, balance and brain activity to compare with post-concussion assessments. These tests are available and worth the investment for any child involved in contact sports.

Here’s why they are not enough & what you can do as a parent:

Prior to concussion:

If you have a child in a contact sport, you should have a baseline assessment done with a concussion specialist who is trained in using the latest in diagnostic technology. These tests are not typically available through your pediatrician or even a sports physical therapy practice. I would recommend that you seek a professional who has studied neurology with a special focus on concussions. Tests you can ask for are: Videonystagmography (VNG) testing, and balance plates to assess the integration of head and eye alignment.

When your child suffers a concussion:

It is also important to consider and assess the child as a whole when they suffer a concussion. Standard tests on the field will check at a cursory level: memory, immediate vision, basic balance, etc. Examining more comprehensive tests such as the VNG, balance tests, additional cognitive and coordination testing, and brain map testing allows for a complete assessment of how the brain may be compensating for areas of damage. For survival, our brains will adapt and compensate for weak or damaged areas. Over time, if not recognized, these areas will continue to compensate until they can’t anymore…often resulting in a crisis when degeneration occurs. However, with proper testing and treatment, these areas can be stimulated to repair and recalibrate to proper function.

With the increased understanding we have today of brain function, there is no reason to let our children walk around with the baggage of old head injuries. Check our website regularly for more information Call us to have your child’s baseline tests done, or to have them assessed and treated post-concussion, 614-890-1400.

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