Q: I play a contact sport, get hit in the head all the time, and usually feel fine. How do I know if I've had a concussion?
A: That's the multimillion-dollar question. Say you've been involved in a big hit. Your ears rang and your vision blurred for a bit, but 30 seconds later, you felt fine. Maybe a little dizzy and fatigued, but otherwise fine. Do you really need to see the athletic trainer?
The answer is always yes. If the thought that you might have suffered a concussion even crosses your mind, talk to the trainer—no ifs, ands or buts. Every concussion is different, and while they commonly produce a wide range of symptoms—e.g., headaches, memory loss, dizziness, nausea and vomiting—you may experience none of them but still be in trouble. Concussed athletes often just feel as if they're "in a fog."
The Bottom Line
Concussions are not a black-and-white issue, and diagnosis is difficult. If you have a question about how you feel, or notice anything strange about a teammate, notify your team trainer—the best person to determine if a concussion occurred.
Long-Term Effects of a Concussion
If a concussion is recognized early and sufficient time for rest and recovery is allowed, there should be few or no long-term effects. That's why machismo doesn't help, and it's critically important to consult with a professional as soon as you feel like you might be concussed.
After a head injury, it's important to give your brain time to recuperate, and not risk re-injury. In certain cases, a trainer or physician may even tell you to take time off from strenuous mental activity—including school, studying, television, and video games. With these precautions and additional treatments (a supplement of 900 mg of DHA per day may be worth considering), long-term effects are less likely.
The flipside: Multiple concussions can lead to serious, long-term negative effects—like memory loss, attention deficits, and mood alterations, among others—later in life. These consequences are more likely if your brain isn't given enough time to recover.
Q. If my coach says I'm fine, but I don't feel fine, how do I get out of practice or a game without looking like a quitter?
A: Whether you step on the field should always be a decision made by you with the input and advice of doctors or trainers. As a player, the toughest thing to do is admit you don't feel well. You don't want to let your teammates down or seem "soft." But it takes courage to tell somebody about a head injury, and it's the right thing to do. Remember, sports are for fun. People who really care about you will understand that you need time to recover.
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