Athletes Who Suffer From A Concussion Are Advised To Follow A Return To Play Protocol

Sports-related concussions are more frequently reported in the news thanks in part to the notoriety of concussed NHL-ers Daniel Sedin and Sidney Crosby. Concussions are a common sports injury usually caused by a hit to the head leading to a short loss of normal brain function. Symptoms can include a headache or neck pain, nausea, dizziness, or tiredness. BC’s physiotherapists want to share their Physio-4 for Concussions, 4 tips on how to successfully return to play after a concussion and keep British Columbians moving for life.

“If you or an athlete in your care suffers a concussion, a physiotherapist can work to help speed the healing process and create a safe return to play protocol,” says Rebecca Tunnacliffe, CEO of the Physiotherapy Association of BC.  “And by following the Physio-4 for Sports-related Concussions, parents and coaches can be more aware of when a concussion has occurred and help to protect players from getting or causing a concussion and keep moving for life.”

1.  Monitor the health of the athlete.  Before the first practice, assess the young athlete’s baseline brain function (memory skills, concentration), and then re-test during the season to help identify the effects of any injury. Know if the young athlete has had a prior concussion, if so have a physiotherapist help set up a program for a safe and prepared return to play.

2.    Positioning and protecting the head: To prevent giving or receiving a concussion, young hockey and soccer players must learn to protect their heads and avoid dangerous angles of contact. Hockey players should always approach the boards on an angle, and never check from behind. Soccer players should “head the ball” correctly, and keep a protective space around their bodies to avoid bumping heads and straining necks.

3.    Ensure a gradual return to play. If a young player does suffer a concussion it’s imperative that he/she does not return to play too soon; their brain needs time to heal. A physiotherapist can establish an individualized rehabilitation program that will help prevent the incidence of re-injury, guide the young athlete through the recovery process, and help determine when it is safe to return to play.

4.    Train specifically for the sport. Hockey specific off-ice training exercises will improve control of the neck, spine and pelvis, and will help with skating, puck skills and safe body contact to avoid concussion. Soccer players (especially girls who are prone to concussions) should include a neck-strengthening program as part of their conditioning. Younger players should not practice “heading the ball” until they are adequately trained in the proper technique.

*Note: These tips can be adapted for other sports.

The Physiotherapy Association of BC created the Physio-4 to share the expertise of its members with fellow British Columbians. Each month, on movingforlife.ca 4 tips are provided to treat specific health or physical conditions that will help keep British Columbians moving for life.  BC’s physiotherapists want British Columbians to know that if they are injured or in pain, a physiotherapist can help. After all, they are the healthcare professionals physicians recommend most.

To learn more about how physiotherapists keep British Columbians moving for life, visit movingforlife.ca

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