What Soccer Players Should Do After a Concussion Diagnosis
Aug 16, 2021
Let’s face it - concussions are frightening, sobering and confusing. Players and parents may have sleepless nights about whether they can return or whether they’ll even play again. And of course, your outlook on life can change too, if the concussion is very serious. You might ask yourself if you’ll ever truly function as you did before, or what may happen to your brain in the future.
However, concussion management can be relatively straightforward and effective. This post will take a look at how young players and their families should manage a concussion after diagnosis.
Follow the Concussion Recovery Protocol
There is a growing number of therapies that can help you manage a concussion, but none of them can match the two most important healing agents: time and rest. What many people don't realize is that the brain, just like bones or muscles, can repair itself after sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Neuroscientists now know that within the first few days after a TBI, immune cells called monocytes travel to the injured tissues and start clearing away dead cells. This cleanup allows blood vessels surrounding the brain to repair themselves, improving blood flow and oxygenation. A healthy blood flow and oxygen supply are essential for the brain to heal and function normally.
During a traumatic brain injury, you lose neurons, which means a slower flow of information. Certain brain regions take over the functions that dead neurons can no longer carry out. They, in effect, compensate for the dead ones. This rerouting of brain connections allows information to flow through the brain again. Ultimately, this allows you to think, act and feel like you did before the injury and much of this happens on its own.
Return to Learn Concussion Protocol
Of course, none of this happens overnight and your brain needs every ounce of energy it can to complete the healing process. That's why time and rest are absolutely critical. With that said, the concussion protocol gives your brain the time and rest it needs to fully repair itself.
Stage 1: Immediately after a concussion or brain injury, you should stop all sporting and physical activity. That means no time on the pitch, no time in the gym - nothing. Stay at home and rest.
Stage 2: During the second stage, you can introduce some light exercise. Walking, swimming, cycling (stationary) are allowed. But don’t engage in any high-impact, weight-bearing workouts or strength training of any sort. Also, the light exercise you do at this time should not make your heart rate jump too high.
Stage 3: The third stage allows you to reintroduce some sport-specific movements. In the case of soccer, you can do some light running drills for conditioning. Under NO condition should you head the ball.
Stage 4: Once you reach stage four, you can add more routine training into the mix. That includes exercises such as passing drills and weight training. You can probably get away with conditioning workouts such as ladder drills, but be very careful with them and work at a slower pace.
Stage 5: The fifth stage allows you to resume your soccer training as normal. It's crucial that you get medical clearance at this point. Once approved, you can participate in all the drills and conditioning workouts you did before the injury.
Stage 6: The final stage allows you to return to practices and regular games as well. Reaching this stage means you're fully recovered. At this point, you have no more restrictions and you can play at full intensity and on a normal schedule.
Keep in mind that only your doctor or specialist can determine whether you're ready to progress Beyond a certain stage or not. They will determine this based on the symptoms you feel in addition to imaging and cognitive tests they might perform.
Also if they feel that you're not fully recovered or that a symptom is getting worse, they will likely keep you at your current stage or maybe bring you back to a previous stage. That leads to our next point.
Monitor Brain Function & Symptoms
Determining whether you're recovering or not boils down to two tasks: monitoring your symptoms and how your brain is functioning itself. Realistically speaking, doctors and neurologists still aren't a hundred percent able to tell how well the brain has healed from a concussion. But the right imaging and assessments give a very accurate picture as to whether you can return to play or not.
Keeping an Eye on Your Symptoms
In case you need a refresher on what concussion symptoms look like take a look below. You may experience just a few or many of them. Regardless of what you experience, it's important you make note of them and pay careful attention - to the best of your ability - as to whether they improve or not.
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Feeling slowed down
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty remembering new information
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance problems
- Fuzzy or blurry vision
- Feeling tired, having no energy
- Sensitivity to noise or light
- More emotional
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Sleeping more than usual
- Sleeping less than usual
- Trouble falling asleep
If you notice any of these symptoms becoming less intense or if they disappear altogether, then your brain is likely recovering from the injury. The opposite is likely true as well. Worsening of symptoms could be a sign of complications that require immediate medical attention.
Taking a Look at the Brain Itself
Of course symptoms don't give the full picture by themselves. Remember it's possible to sustain a brain injury and not feel much if anything at all. Likewise, it's possible to experience noticeable symptoms but not have as much damage to the brain as you would suspect. That's why brain imaging and assessments can provide a clearer picture of what's going on. There are various tools doctors may use.
Again these diagnostics are not perfect, but they tell a lot about what's going on in your brain after a concussion. They're useful immediately after an injury but also as the weeks go by. They can show changes before and after the injury giving both the doctor and the victim a sense of how they’re recovering.
Wear Concussion Headgear
One of the most frequently asked questions that parents, players, and coaches alike ask themselves is: how do I prevent another concussion from happening? The reality is that you can't prevent them all together but you can reduce the likelihood of them happening again. It's important that you protect your head after a brain injury. Sustaining just one concussion puts you at risk for having more concussions and more severe ones at that.
That's where soccer concussion headgear comes in. The goal of soccer headgear is not to prevent a concussion. Rather the goal is to reduce the amount of impact or shock the brain and skull experience. Researchers are now uncovering that not all blows to the head are made equal. So the less force is transferred to the brain after a hit, the less likely you are to get injured. The right headgear reduces those forces.
Apart from absorbing impact forces the head guard serves as a tactile reminder for players so that they're more aware of their body in space, a trait which can help reduce head collisions in itself.
Sit Out But Don’t Linger
Concussions are serious, scary and even subtle at times. But it's important to remember that a brain injury Is no different than any other injury. The faster and more aggressively you treat a concussion, the quicker and more effective your recovery will be.