Education is critical to ensuring that injuries are managed properly. It’s important that all adults working with student athletes have a full understanding of what concussions are, how to detect them, what to do after a player experiences a head injury, and how to determine when it’s safe for a player to return to full-contact activity.
Baseline testing plays an important role in detecting head injuries. It can be used to determine if and when an athlete who has been injured can play again safely or should receive further treatment for a concussion. On the North Shore and Cape Ann, Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals recently partnered with Beverly, Gloucester, Danvers and Ipswich High Schools to establish a baseline against which they can compare a student athlete’s cognitive function if the student suffers an injury and exhibits symptoms.
Once athletes experience a concussion, how it is managed plays an important role in their recovery. Taking a break is the most important step athletes need to take. The brain needs to rest—physically and cognitively—which means activities like reading, watching TV, listening to music and playing video games should be limited.
Knowing when it is safe to return to play is also crucial for preventing further complications and injury. As part of Beverly Hospital’s concussion program, hospital staff work with schools to develop “back to play” protocols so student athletes are not returning too soon and placing their health at greater risk. Athletes should wait at least five days to return to play after a concussion, and they should be able to successfully complete a series of tasks without experiencing symptoms for 24 hours. First, the athlete should go a full day symptom-free at rest, meaning no headache, dizziness or fatigue. After this stage, a medical professional can clear the patient to progress to light cardiovascular exercise, then sports-specific exercise and one hour of non-contact training drills. If an athlete completes each of these stages with no symptoms for 24 hours afterward, a medical professional can clear the athlete to return to full-contact play.