With two sons playing physical contact sports such as football, basketball and lacrosse, Mary Hess of Ashburn has learned the importance of concussion awareness.
“Both of my boys has had two or more concussions each, so my pediatrician said it would be a good idea to take them in for a baseline computer testing of their cognitive abilities,” Hess said.
Hess is referring to the NeuroCom Equitest balance assessment, and the ImPACT Neurocognitive assessment which are available at the Inova Concussion Clinic at Inova Loudoun Hospital.
These tests can tell how well the brain is processing and provide doctors with information they need to diagnose the severity of a concussion.
Anne Blackstone, MSPT, is a physical therapist who has been trained in vestibular rehabilitation and is the clinical coordinator for outpatient specialty rehabilitation at Inova Loudoun.
“Anytime the brain bounces inside your head, there is a possibility of a concussion. You don’t have to hit your head to have a concussion,” Blackstone said.
Inova’s Concussion Clinic has seen an increase of patients ages 5 to 9, and wants to stress the importance of concussion awareness, along with early identification and education.
So far, it seems to be making a difference. The clinic opened in 2011 and saw 105 patients; in 2013 they saw 831.
Blackstone said early treatment is important and will help the individual have a quicker recovery.
“We recommend that people do not do any high risk or head threatening activities until they have been evaluated,” Blackstone said.
Jason Belser, a former defensive back for the Indiana Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs, now works with concussion protocol for the NFL Players Association. He lives in Loudoun County with his family and works locally to promote concussion awareness.
Belser said he highly recommends baseline testing before starting the season. “It is very beneficial,” he said.
Blackstone agrees. “With baseline testing, we can understand is this the norm or do they normally perform like this? Is it stabilizing or changing? This will help get them back on the field quicker.”
Belser emphasized the importance of observing your child after their game. “The most important thing to know is the brain is different in growing kids. I really want to stress to parents they really should have a conversation with their children after a game to find out how they are feeling. Take an inventory of their moods, appetites, sleeping pattern and make sure they are OK,” Belser said.
“Anytime when you get home and see any symptoms, go and see a healthcare provider to get a concussion screen,” he added.
“We live in Ashburn and our football leagues do a great job of teaching the proper techniques and concussion awareness. Make sure the equipment fits properly and the chin strap is fastened and mouth piece is in place,” Belser said.
For Mary Hess, the testing was a big relief and took away her worry. “We were told they were both cleared for all sports. I wish I had done it before. They both did very well and the tests said they looked great, as if they had never had a concussion,” Hess said.
This is exactly the feedback that Blackstone wants to hear.
“We want to make an impact in the community and reduce the risk of long-term impairment,” Blackstone said.
For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/signs_symptoms
What are the signs and symptoms of concussion?
Most people with a concussion recover quickly and fully. But for some people, symptoms can last for days, weeks or longer. In general, recovery may be slower among older adults, young children and teens. Those who have had a concussion in the past are also at risk of having another one and may find that it takes longer to recover if they have another concussion.
Danger signs in adults
In rare cases, a dangerous blood clot may form on the brain in a person with a concussion and crowd the brain against the skull. Contact your health care professional or emergency department right away if you have any of the following danger signs after a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body:
· Headache that gets worse and does not go away.
· Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination.
· Repeated vomiting or nausea.
· Slurred speech.
The people checking on you should take you to an emergency department right away if you:
· Look very drowsy or cannot be awakened.
· Have one pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other.
· Have convulsions or seizures.
· Cannot recognize people or places.
·Are getting more and more confused, restless or agitated.
· Have unusual behavior.
· Lose consciousness (a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously and the person should be carefully monitored).
Danger signs in children
Take your child to the emergency department right away if they received a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body, and:
· Have any of the danger signs for adults listed above.
· Will not stop crying and cannot be consoled.
· Will not nurse or eat.