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Neurosurgeon Urges Parents, Coaches and Athletes to Recognize the Signs of Concussion

With fall sports about to begin, medical experts are urging everyone involved with sports to understand the risk of head injury and how best to react.

"Concussions can have a wide range of symptoms," explained Peter Lennarson, MD, neurosurgeon at The Nebraska Medical Center. "But there are physical signs you might see."

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Amnesia or trouble with short term memory.
  • Change in personality; being more irritable or emotional
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

"Any number of these signs and symptoms that go together around the time of a head injury; even if they show up a number of hours later, are all important things to consider," Dr. Lennarson said.

If a head injury happens during a game or practice, it is important that a player be checked and cleared before returning, said Dr. Lennarson.

"A sideline assessment can determine whether or not a player should go back in the game," Dr. Lennarson explained, "but also if they need to see a doctor or go right to the hospital for a scan."

A player should not return to normal sports activities until all symptoms have cleared. Returning too soon could lead to more concussions and greater damage to the brain.

"It can happen again, and a person really is at risk of permanent injury," Dr. Lennarson cautions. "It's not a matter of saying 'shake it off and get back out there.' These injuries are real, and there really are things we can do to help people recover."

Sometimes symptoms of a concussion may not appear until hours or days later. Other symptoms that may signal the need for medical attention include:

  • Difficulty waking up
  • Continuing nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and noise

Dr. Lennarson suggests anyone with concerns about a child's head trauma should seek medical attention.