What You Need to Know About Sports-related Injuries: Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries and Concussions

By Roger Foisy on August 20th, 2013

Sports-related mTBIThe first thing you need to know is that concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI). Do not let the word “mild” fool you; nothing about any brain injury is “mild”. 

Although motor vehicle accidents and falls are the two main causes of mTBI, sports-related injuries must not be overlooked. Athletes may be told “it’s just a concussion”, without fully understanding that a concussion is an mTBI and must be taken seriously.

As reported in the Windsor Star, Canadian teenagers between the ages of 12-19 report about 30,000 concussions annually – 60% of which are sports-related. That is roughly 18,000 sports-related mTBIs annually in Canada, not including those that are never reported or those suffered by people outside this age range. 


Causes and Effects of Acquired Brain Injury [Infographic]

The Human Brain and Traumatic Brain Injury [Video]

What are the Symptoms and Effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury?

 The sports that most often result in concussions (not in any order) include: bicycling, football, basketball, baseball, soccer, horseback riding, swimming/diving, skateboarding, and hockey.

Helmets do not fully protect against brain injury.  That said, the importance of helmets should not be underestimated – they are effective at preventing skull punctures, fractures, and surface wounds. They protect against very serious injuries.

However, just because a person is wearing a helmet does not mean they cannot suffer from an mTBI. When a person wearing a helmet hits something, they decelerate too quickly and the brain moves around inside the head, crashing against the inside of the skull. This can cause bruising, stretching, and other damage to the brain tissue. The result: a mild traumatic brain injury.

Symptoms of a Sports-related mTBI

Early Signs of a Concussion

  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Lightheaded-ness
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness

Delayed Signs of Concussion

  • Persistent headaches
  • Poor attention
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Depressed mood
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Weakness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Uneven pupils
  • Ringing in ears
  • Changes in smell
  • Slurred speech
  • Lightheaded-ness
  • Difficulty waking
  • Inability to wake up
  • Seizures


How You Should Respond to a Sports-related mTBI (Source: ThinkFirst.ca)

  • Immediately remove the injured person from play (even if you only suspect a concussion)
  • Do not allow injured person to be alone
  • Be alert for symptoms, especially symptoms of a worsening problem
  • Return to activity must be supervised by a medical professional
  • Engage in no activity until free of symptoms
  • Return to play slowly and stop at the first sign of symptoms (light aerobic activity – sport-specific activity – training drills without body contact – training drills with body contact – full play)
  • Avoid bright lights and loud noises
  • Be aware that the injured person may experience irritability or mood swings
  • Reduce work load (whether it be at school or at work) to allow brain to recover
  • Only take medication after consulting a doctor
  • Never take aspirin, as it can cause internal bleeding
  • Do not consume alcohol or drugs

In most cases, people recover from mild traumatic brain injuries without difficulty. However, if symptoms persist or become worse, it can mean the mTBI will become a long-term challenge.

If the symptoms do persist or worsen, the injured person should see a knowledgeable health care professional who specializes in concussion management or brain injuries. This may be a speciality physician, a neurologist, or a neuropsychologist. 

>> If you or a family member has suffered a mild traumatic brain injury at another party’s fault, you can seek the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer to help ease the financial burden. Contact us for immediate support and a free consultation.

*Roger R. Foisy has completed courses in Neurorehabilitation and Advanced Brain Injury Rehabilitation from Brock University. However, he is not a medical professional. The advice in this blog is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. 

 Image source: CTV News

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