Approximately three million sports-related concussions occur each year in the United States. Due to the complexity of concussions and the wide range of outcomes that can occur, it’s crucial to manage concussions until complete recovery.
Dr. Peter Loo, sports medicine physician at The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus, tells us how the concussion management program provides a continuum of care for patients.
“Through the concussion management program, our athletic trainers go out and work at sporting events in the school districts that we partner with,” said Loo. “When there’s a head injury or concern of a head injury, the patient will first be evaluated by the athletic trainer. If they feel that they need to be evaluated further, the trainers will send them to the emergency room.”
Concussions don’t always come from head injuries.
“If a child endures some kind of impact that has shaken their head back and forth, they could experience a whiplash injury that will sometimes cause changes in their mental status.”
Common concussion symptoms are headaches/pressure in the head, nausea, dizziness, confusion and change in vision.
Patients are referred to Dr. Loo from the athletic trainers, emergency room doctors or their primary care physicians.
“I like to see them for an initial evaluation to examine their presenting symptoms and determine what type of treatment is needed,” said Loo. “An advantage of the program here at The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus is that our physical therapists have gone through additional concussion rehab training. They are able to work with the children with specific types of concussion injuries and focus on the balance system to get them back into their normal life and back to their sports in an appropriate timeframe.”
Treatment methods vary for concussion patients.
“Medications aren’t always given for concussion treatment,” said Loo. “In an acute setting, we recommend giving concussion patients a normal dose of Tylenol. Tylenol is safer than ibuprofen or aspirin and is better for head injuries. If the headaches are really bad and Tylenol isn’t providing any relief, we can explore stronger medications. If kids have trouble sleeping after sustaining a concussion, we recommend giving them melatonin. There are also antidepressants that can be prescribed if mood issues become a problem.”
Post-concussion treatment at home mainly consists of physical and mental rest.
“For the most part, children will understand that they need to rest physically, but the mental activity is what a lot of people overlook,” said Loo. “A concussion is an injury of the brain and we use our brains in every single aspect of our lives. Kids really need to try to shut it down as much as possible to give it proper rest. Have them be bored for a few days. If they are of driving age, do not allow them to drive until medically cleared due to reaction time being delayed.”
Dr. Loo encourages parents to take concussions seriously.
“If your child isn’t feeling right, it’s not safe for them to continue playing,” said Loo. “With the aggressiveness of more contact sports, especially football, head injuries need not be taken lightly. It’s a law in the state of Kansas that if there are any concerns for head injury in a child playing a school sport, that child should be pulled out of activities for the day and should always seek further evaluation.”
To learn more about sports medicine services at The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus, call (785) 379-4600.