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Concussions are among the most serious injuries an athlete can suffer. NHL superstart Sidney Crosby was sidelined for more than half a season, and former NFL QB Troy Aikman lost his career due to multiple concussions.
Simply put, a concussion is a jarring of the brain caused by a blow or a fall, usually by a collision with a person or a hard surface. Concussions damage the brain. If treated properly, the damage is temporary, but if not, concussions can lead to debilitating long-term health consequences, including headaches, memory loss, behavioral change and even death. Protect yourself—and your game—by learning more about concussions.
STACK spoke with two of the nation’s leading concussion experts, Sports Legacy Institute president Chris Nowinski and Michigan NeuroSport director Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, who provided four concussions prevention tips that every athlete should follow.
1. Wear a Properly-Fitted Helmet
Wearing a helmet is (pardon the pun), a "no-brainer," the obvious first step to preventing a concussion. A good helmet provides a protective barrier for your skull and helps absorb impact that would otherwise be transferred to your brain. However, to be effective, the helmet must be properly-fitted—snug but not too snug; and Nowinski says you must also take other precautions to remain injury-free.
2. Play With Proper Form
Recent rule changes in high contact sports like football and hockey have helped minimize head-to-head contact and prevented players diagnosed with a concussion from returning to a game. However, simply abiding by the rules isn’t always enough. You have to respect your opponent’s health and remember why you play the game. Using proper tackling or checking form—with your head up—is both more effective and less dangerous. “I hope athletes realize that you’re not a hero if you knock somebody out,” Nowinski says. “It’s about winning the game, scoring the most points and walking away from the game healthy.”
3. Know the Symptoms
Contrary to popular belief, less than 10 percent of concussions result in a loss of consciousness, according to Kutcher. If you suffer a blow to the head, make sure you know—and can recognize—the less obvious symptoms, which include headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, ringing ears, vision and memory problems, fatigue and irritability.
4. Seek Help and Rest
Resist the burning desire to continue playing with a concussion. Doing so can drastically impair your performance—and your team's. Repeated concussions increase the severity of the injury and can cause long-term brain damage that could force you out of your sport forever. If you suspect a concussion, find a coach or trainer and be honest about your injury. "You will be better off in the long run," says Nowinski. "You have to take control of your own career and push away that pressure. It’s better to miss one or two games than try to fight through it and lose your career."
Learn more in our exclusive Concussion Series on STACK TV.