Concussions continue to be the talk of sports, and parents, coaches and athletes need to educate themselves about all aspects of concussions, from baseline testing to symptoms and treatment.

Concussions can be caused by a blow or jolt to the head or a collision to the body, which allows the head to move back and forth. The mechanism of injury could be explained by the anatomy of the skull and brain. The brain sits inside the skull surrounded by fluid, and when the head is suddenly stopped by a blow or collision, the brain inside will slam against the side of the skull and cause a temporary brain injury. Symptoms of this injury can include dizziness, headaches, nausea, feeling foggy, and concentration problems. Signs of a concussion that a parent or coach can observe include an athlete who is stunned, confused, forgetful or behaves differently.

Baseline testing is a concept that allows the medical team to have a recorded normal test on file so when the athlete has a concussion they can compare the normal test to the concussed test. This information will help the medical team with return-to-play guidelines. Baseline tests could be in the form of a computerized test such as impact testing, or a paper test, sport concussion assessment tool 5 (SCAT 5). This test would usually be given during the sports physical that each athlete must have before the season starts.

The state of Iowa provides a fact sheet for all parents and athletes called HEADS UP: Concussion in High School Sports. View it online at http://www.iahsaa.org/Sports_Medicine_Wellness/Concussions/HEADS_UP_CONCUSSION_FACT_SHEET_053012.pdf.

The question most parents have is: After a concussion, when can my child come back to play? The best answer for that is: When all the symptoms of the concussion have resolved and after the athlete can perform sport-specific activities without any symptoms. The state of Iowa has a return-to-play protocol at http://www.iahsaa.org/Sports_Medicine_Wellness/Concussions/Concussion_RTP_Protocol_052212.pdf.

Additional information from the Iowa High School Athletic Association website can be found at http://www.iahsaa.org/information/sports-medicine-wellness-info/concussions/.

Remember, any head injury is a possible brain injury and should be taken seriously. The sports medicine world has taken important steps to try to inform and protect all athletes. Concussions can be prevented, treated, and athletes can recover and play again if we take the proper steps to inform ourselves and allow the athlete to recover from the injury.

D. Ranier Pavlicek, D.C., A.T.C., D.A.C.R.B., is a faculty clinician in the Chiropractic Rehabilitation and Sports Injury Department of the Palmer Chiropractic Clinics. He’s a Certified Athletic Trainer and works with the Palmer Men’s and Women’s Rugby teams.

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