Your role in concussions based-injuries is critical.
The Brain Injury Research Institute explains that a concussion, also commonly referred to as a mild traumatic brain injury or mTBI, occurs when there is some type of “bump, blow, or jolt to either the head or the body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull.”
Ultimately, this movement can change the way the brain works.
Though some athletes will immediately feel the effects of a concussion—suffering from headaches, nausea, confusion, and memory issues—the institute stresses that, in some cases, these symptoms may take days if not weeks to appear. Other signs of a concussion include trouble sleeping or changes in mood, such as an increase in irritability.
Concussions are more prevalent in society than many would think. In fact, one 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that, out of 13,088 adolescents surveyed, approximately 20 percent revealed that they’ve had at least one diagnosed concussion. One quarter of these, 5.5 percent of teens in total, have had two or more.
These head-related injuries also appear to be on the rise as a study published in BMC Emergency Medicine in 2016 found that “concussions increased by 37.5 percent over the study period,” which was January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2011. This study went on to say that almost one-third of the reported concussions occurred during some type of sport.
Concussions in female athletes
Not only are sports often the culprit, according to Dr. Mayumi Prins, professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the director of their Brain Injury Research Center education program, female athletes sustain a majority of these injuries.
Research has confirmed this with the Journal of Athletic Training publishing a study in 2016 that found that female athletes are 1.4 times more likely to have a concussion than males. Furthermore, these rates were higher in sports such as baseball, basketball, ice hockey and soccer, and typically resulted in the female player losing more play time than their male counterparts.
To make matters worse, Prins says that this demographic’s concussion-related symptoms also tend to appear more often, be more severe, and take longer to heal. How can DCs help with this?
How DCs can help treat concussions
One literature review published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine looked at this very issue and explained that the answer to this question often begins immediately after the concussion has been sustained as, many times, DCs are at the events in which they occur. Thus, the first step according to these researchers is to “understand the importance of using standardized concussion assessment tools and current concussion guidelines.”
- Things to look for during a concussion evaluation (like personality or balance changes, unclear speech, and disorientation);
- What types of actions should and should not be taken if an injury is suspected (checking for breathing and circulation if the athlete is unconscious, but not moving her head, neck, or spine in case a spinal injury is present); and
- Guidelines regarding seeking care and returning to play.
The AAN also offers this information right at your fingertips by offering a Concussion Quick Check app that you can download to your smartphone via Google Play or Apple’s App Store. This gives you access to all of this data electronically, while also providing the ability to find a neurologist in your area should the player need additional follow-up care.
Beyond this initial event, DCs can also aid the female athlete in concussion recovery by assessing the cervical spine for any further injury and, if necessary, to develop a treatment plan. While this treatment can include chiropractic care, it may also involve referring the patient to another health professional should the athlete need alternative treatment.
Additional concussion recovery tips
Since not all concussions can be avoided, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a few recovery tips that DCs can share with female athletes who have sustained a concussion. These include:
Getting adequate rest and limiting exertion, napping throughout the day if necessary.
- Working with the school if the female athlete is school-aged so 1) the instructors and other school officials are aware that there may be reduced cognitive function from the concussion, and 2) they can monitor the individual’s activities and watch for any other concussion-related issues.
- Potentially taking time off work if the individual’s job functions can potentially cause too much exertion and further exacerbate the concussion symptoms.
Once the athlete is able to go 24 hours without experiencing any symptoms, the CDC recommends returning to sports in five slowly progressing steps. The first involves undergoing light aerobic activity for only 5 to 10 minutes, increasing to moderate activity, and then heavy activity before transitioning to full-contact practice and, finally, a return to competition. Depending on the severity of the concussion and its effects, this progression could take weeks, if not months, to complete.
To learn more about how to recognize concussions and how to best respond should you suspect that one has occurred, the CDC offers a free online training course. You can access it via your computer, tablet, or mobile device.