Although most of the sports medicine news lately has been about the risks of concussions and traumatic brain injuries for football players, these athletes don’t hold a monopoly on the risks of the condition.
Baseball players, too, can suffer from concussive brain injury in many ways. They need not “only” be hit in the head by a pitch for a coach, parent, or athletic trainer to consider the possibility of this type of injury. Concussions can be sustained in collisions between outfielders, a fielder hitting a wall, collisions between a runner and a catcher, or a runner sliding into a baseman. A collision, in fact, between a player’s head and another object need not even take place: a significant jolt to the head can cause one.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), sometimes known more generally as a closed head injury (CHI). Think of it as a “brain bruise.” Concussions are the most common type of sports-related brain injury and can vary from mild to very severe. However, even a mild concussion can be dangerous. Not only can a mild concussion put an athlete at a higher risk for sustaining a second one or more, multiple concussions can have cumulative and life-long effects.
If you sustain any type of bump, knock, jolt, or blow to the head, tell your coach, parent or athletic trainer immediately. Many symptoms of a concussion begin gradually. By the time they are severe and dangerous, you may literally be unable to explain your injury to others or even remember having been injured.
Some signs and symptoms of concussions include:
• Nausea or vomiting
• Dizziness or difficulty keeping your balance
• Double or fuzzy vision
• Sensitivity to light, noise or activity
• Sluggishness, feeling tired or sleepy
• Irritability at minor things
• Difficulty concentrating
• Difficulty remembering
Once you’ve notified your coach, parents, and/or athletic trainer, you will probably be seen by a medical doctor to ensure that you aren’t suffering from more serious injuries. Although a concussion cannot be “seen” on a CAT scan or an MRI, you will probably have one of these painless x-ray-type of tests in order to rule out serious injuries such as a fractured skull, a blood clot (hematoma) between the brain and the skull, or active bleeding within the brain.
Treatment sounds simple but is very, very important and cannot be stressed enough. You need to get plenty of rest and lots of sleep. Limit the “work” that you make your brain and eyes and ears do by avoiding loud music, lots of social interaction (like a party), watching television or DVDs, using your computer, texting all your friends about the injury, playing video games, or even reading. Your doctor may give you a number of days before you’re allowed to drive again. It sounds boring, but if you’re resting and sleeping as much as you should be, you won’t notice. Be patient.
In particular, do NOT drink alcohol with a concussion. Not even “just a beer.” Alcohol is a diuretic: it makes your body lose fluids and dehydrates you. Your brain cells shrink a little as you lose fluids. When your brain cells get a chance to rehydrate, they may not be able to do so correctly.
Because the concussion is a brain injury, you can expect cognitive (thinking) difficulties to be more difficult shortly after the injury. Multi-tasking or even doing just two things at once may be difficult. For this reason, your doctor may excuse you from going to class or taking tests until your condition improves.
Recovery from a concussion is a gradual process and may last for weeks or even months. Sometimes the symptoms will return when you are very tired or stressed. For instance, you may be cleared to practice with the team and feel great, but then feel confused or extra tired or sensitive to light when practice is over. Tell your coaches and athletic trainers immediately if this happens. Talk to your coaches, parents, doctor and your teachers honestly about how you feel and any gains or setbacks you have. As soon as the doctors can clear you to play ball again, they will. Again, be patient.
If you play with a concussion, you’re going to be a liability for your team, not an asset.
Informational Page, Sports & Concussions: Facts for Parents, Coaches & Athletes, Brain Injury Association of Virginia.