Does Your Doctor Know This 6-Step Plan for Concussions?

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Concussions pose a serious risk to seniorsConcussions are a hot topic these days. It used to be that when someone hit their head no one worried much about it as long as the person remained conscious. Now all that has changed. We now know that concussions can come with some serious side effects that can cause problems in the weeks and months to follow. It’s no longer wise to go right back to what you were doing after receiving a blow to the head.

And in fact, therein lies another myth about concussions: you have to hit your head to get one. You can get a concussion from any jarring impact that “rattles” your brain inside your skull. This can happen if you experience a blow to your jaw. It can happen if you experience a whiplash to your neck area. You can also give your brain a nasty shake if you’re hit forcibly enough in the chest. It’s not always the impact to the head itself that causes a concussion but a blow to the body that sends vibrations all the way to the brain.

The most common causes of concussions are vehicle collisions, work-related accidents, and sports. You might also know from reading Doctors Health Press that seniors are at high risk of suffering a concussion. This is usually the result of a fall brought on by diminishing reflexes and core balance.

MORE: The Danger of Concussions for Older Adults

Concussion awareness has improved greatly, in part, because many parents have become concerned about their children when involved in sports activities. Concussions are common in sports like hockey where contact is encouraged and falls to the ice happen with frequency. Other sports are also garnering the concussion “spotlight” as well. Football, basketball, and soccer routinely cause concussions in those who play these sports.

A six-step protocol for doctors dealing with concussions has now been set out by Dr. Charles Taylor from the neurosurgery division at the University of Toronto. For those of you who are seniors or have grandkids that are sometimes entrusted to your care, it’s a good idea to look at these six steps and memorize them. It’s important that any medical specialist you see after a concussion takes the situation seriously right from the outset to avoid troubling symptoms later.

Here’s Dr. Taylor’s six-step plan:

  1.  Stop all activity. Rest completely—both mentally and physically. Take a break from work, school, and play.
  2. Do only light exercising, such as walking, swimming, or cycling on the stationary bike.
  3.  Go back to playing sports but avoid those with possible head contact.
  4.  Add more challenging physical workouts but continue to participate in non-contact training drills.
  5.  After you receive medical clearance and the go ahead from your doctor or other specialist working with you, add in full-contact practice and resume normal activities.
  6. Return to normal activities, including contact sports.

The concussion protocol also recommends that the earliest a person should return to “play” is one week. Young people are more susceptible to concussions than adults. However, seniors can take longer to recover. Research has also determined that women tend to suffer more concussions than men. This is thought to be caused by less neck muscle. Men tend to have stronger necks which may protect them better in the event of an impact.

The main symptoms of concussion are dizziness, nausea, and imbalance. Watch out for these after experiencing an impact. Any one symptom means you should be diagnosed as having a concussion.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
“Concussion guide for doctors provides 6-step recovery plan,” CBC News web site, July 22, 2013; http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2013/07/22/concussion-primer.html, last accessed July 24, 2013.
Kane, L., “Long-term effects of concussions misunderstood: Toronto doctor,” The Toronto Star web site, July 24, 2013; http://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2013/07/22/longterm_effects_of_concussions_misunderstood_toronto_doctor.html, last accessed July 24, 2013.

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