Concussion is often considered a mild brain injury, but it can have serious long-term effects, especially with repeated head trauma. Most sports have a risk of concussion, and preventing and managing it is a priority of the Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine.

What is Concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a blow to the head or any impact that jars the brain inside the skull. You can get a concussion from a car accident, fight or fall. Concussions can happen in almost any sport, such as football, hockey, soccer, skating or skiing. Any time you hit or jar your head, you need to watch for signs of concussion.

Symptoms of a concussion can include:

  • Headache
  • Foggy thinking, confusion or difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Nausea
  • Lack of energy
  • Dizziness or poor balance
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light and sounds
  • Irritability, anxiety or sadness

Most of the time, symptoms go away after a few hours or days, but sometimes they can last for months.

Concussion can sometimes cause long-term symptoms, called post-concussion syndrome. If you have another blow to the head or jarring injury when you already have a concussion, your risk for post-concussion syndrome might be increased. It’s important to rest and let your brain heal. You’ll need to take a break from your sport and other risky activities until all your symptoms are gone.

Prevention and Management for Athletes

In recent years, medical experts and sports officials have become more aware and concerned about concussion risk, prevention and management. The National Football League (NFL) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) now have strict rules to help prevent concussions and to ensure that athletes heal completely before returning to their sport. Gone are the days when a player got his “bell rung” and got back in the game right away.

The team at the Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine is recognized for its expertise and experience in treating and managing concussion. We’re one of only a handful of sites selected by the National Football League Player Association to provide medical evaluations and care for former NFL players as part of The Trust’s Brain and Body program. And preventing concussions and treating them properly is one focus of our work with area high school and college athletes.

Any time a student athlete has a blow to the head, he or she must be taken out of play and assessed for signs of a concussion. If the athlete has symptoms and our doctors diagnose a concussion, the athlete cannot return to their sport until he or she is symptom-free and has completed the return-to-play protocol. It’s a step-by-step process, with activity slowly increasing, as long as symptoms don’t return, until the athlete is back in the game and still symptom-free.

It’s the Law

Our team members have contributed to the passage of Louisiana’s laws regarding youth athletes and concussion. The Louisiana Youth Concussion Act, passed in 2011, requires all athletes, coaches and others who work with youth athletes to be informed about the concussion risks and symptoms, as well as the dangers of continuing to play with a concussion. Find out more about the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s requirements regarding concussion prevention and management.

More to Learn

Doctors and scientists still don’t fully understand what a concussion does to the brain or why some people develop post-concussion syndrome. Our team is actively involved in research into concussion and its possible long-term effects. For example, the NFL Player Care Foundation partners with the Tulane University School of Medicine to conduct its Healthy Body and Mind screening program for former NFL players. The program is supported by the NFL Alumni Association as part of the NFL Player Care Foundation’s research programs.