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Concussion Management

Learn more about prevention, warning signs and treatments for concussions.

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What You Need to Know

At ThedaCare, our concussion specialists are committed to quick, thorough assessments using the most advanced techniques. In addition, we take part in concussion education and prevention within the sports programs of our local high school districts to keep kids safer.

Today’s coaches, teachers and parents recognize the need to diagnose and treat head injuries. In partnership with our sports medicine physicians, concussion management is one of the many functions of our licensed athletic trainers (LATs) who serve our area’s high schools. Each year, LATs from ThedaCare Orthopedic Care perform baseline neurocognitive testing on athletes free of charge in many of the high schools throughout the region.

ThedaCare Sports Medicine has a longstanding relationship with ImPACT®, makers of the leading computerized concussion evaluation system. In addition to a physician’s comprehensive exam, ImPACT®’s pre- and post-concussion data provide a more complete picture of the athlete’s recovery and helps us determine if an athlete should return to sports. Proper treatment can reduce the chance of repeat concussions.

Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion

  • A blow or a jolt to the head can cause a concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI). An injury to another part of the body that transmits force to the head can also result in concussion. The injury may keep the brain from working normally. Symptoms of a concussion may last less than a day or may linger for months, or longer.

    Millions of mild traumatic brain injuries occur in the U.S. each year, but most don’t require a visit to the hospital.

Concussion Prevention

Many parents, athletes and coaches ask us what they can do to prevent sports-related concussions. Our recommendations are:

Check the Helmet Fit

Make sure the helmet is appropriate for the sport and fits properly. The helmet should be certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). Reports show that only 15-20 percent of all helmets are fit correctly. It is very important that the helmet fits properly and is worn correctly each and every time.

Avoid Head-First Contact

Avoid using the head as the point of contact. The head and helmet should never be used as a weapon. Anti-spearing rules in football have helped reduce the number of cervical (neck) spine injuries. But head-first contact is still common and is increasing in sports other than football.

Proper Tackling Techniques

Instruct football athletes in proper tackling techniques. That is, do not lead with the head. Hit with the shoulder instead of the helmet to reduce the incidence of concussion.

  • Develop Neck Muscles
  • Strengthen the neck muscles to absorb some of the shock from a blow to the head and decrease the force delivered to the brain. Studies show that athletes with stronger neck muscles have a lower rate of concussion. Weaker neck muscles in girls may put them at greater risk for concussion than boys.
  • Wear a Mouth Guard
  • Include mouth guard use, since some studies seem to indicate that mouth guard use helps prevent concussions. And it certainly helps reduce dental trauma and lacerations to the mouth.
  • Research Headgear Options
  • For football and hockey, new helmet designs are being tested for their ability to reduce concussion rates. However, the evidence that they are doing so is not yet conclusive. We’re beginning to see safety headgear used in soccer. At this time, however, there is too little evidence to confirm that it reduces the rate of concussion.
  • Be Head-Aware
  • Remember that even non-contact sports such as gymnastics and swimming can also carry a level of risk for concussion.

Sports Clearance and Return to Play

Concussion Guidelines and Training Resources for Coaches

It’s vital that you and your fellow coaches understand how to recognize and prevent concussions in your athletes. We find these resources especially helpful: