Toughing it out with a concussion is just a bad play


When we watch NHL or NFL games, it’s hard to miss the army of medical professionals on the bench or sidelines ready to evaluate a player and put them in concussion protocol if they get injured.

Unfortunately, in beer league, your fees can only stretch to cover the ice, referees, and well, usually beer. We don’t have the luxury of having a trainer, coach, or anyone for that matter standing on the bench behind us. Similar to managing line changes, at this point in our hockey career, we typically have to govern ourselves out there.

Whether it was you or a team mate that was caught with a shot to the head, it’s vital to know what symptoms to watch out for and how to step up to say something to protect your buddy – and yourself if you have a concussion.

What to watch out for immediately after a concussion

Let’s set this up; your linemate just got caught admiring a pass a little too long and the defenseman stepped up in the Trolley Tracks and levelled him to the ice. As he makes his way over to the bench, he looks groggy and shaken up.

The cognitive (relating to mental activities like thinking, reasoning and learning) and physical signs to look for right away would be:

  • If he generally appears or feels off,
  • There’s increased weakness,
  • Issues with his coordination,
  • Sensitivity to light or noise,
  • Short-term memory loss.

It’s important to know that you don’t need to lose consciousness to get a concussion.

The top priority is safety, and you don’t want to take any chances, so if you have any suspicion he has a concussion, he should stop playing right away!

If he doesn’t sit out, it could get a lot worse.

The darkness behind this invisible injury           

There are a lot of different ways a concussion can feel. We generally think of four categories:

  1. Physical problems: Headache, dizziness, ringing in the ears, sensitivity to light or noise.
  1. Thinking problems: Feeling mentally foggy or slow, just feeling out of it with a blank or vacant look or having difficulties remembering details.
  1. Emotional symptoms: Feeling sad or having less control over your emotions; or feeling worried and irritable.
  1. Sleep issues: It can work both ways where you might feel like you’re drowsy and sleeping more, or the reverse, and having trouble to fall asleep or sleeping less.

Symptoms can appear immediately or take 24-48 hours to happen. If it’s you or a buddy dealing with a concussion, it’s important to notice if these symptoms get worse when you’re mentally working harder. If you still feel off and have symptoms, you should follow up with a health care professional.

Monitoring concussion symptoms closely

Family and friends should monitor you for a couple of days. Take the first week after a concussion in 24-hour chunks to evaluate how you feel. Things might get a bit worse or better in the first 24 hours. We tend to err on the side of caution by focusing on resting the brain. This means taking time away from screens, taking it easy with sports and getting lots of sleep – which is very good for healing from a concussion!

The more serious symptoms require a trip to the ER to get some imaging. Symptoms such as:

  • Worsening of headache,
  • Loss of consciousness, Repeated vomiting,
  • Weakness in your arms or legs,
  • Blood from the ears or nose,
  • Slurred speech,
  • Drowsiness or you can’t be woken up,
  • Convulsions that may be a seizure.

It’s important to watch out for any sudden changes in symptoms, because then you needs to urgently be assessed.

Managing the aftermath of a concussion

It is estimated that 80-90% of concussions resolve within 3 weeks when properly managed by you, your family, your school and your care team.

Recovery from concussion can be particularly tricky since  that people aren’t used to resting their brain. There’s no crutches or ice packs to put on it, but try to think of it this way; if you go back to physical activity, digital life, work or other activities, it’s like running again too quickly on an injured knee. Too much too soon and you can reaggravate the symptoms again.

Toughing it out with any medical issue is just a bad move

Take this in. Scott Thornton, who played 17 seasons in the NHL  learned early on that playing through injuries, including the blinding headaches and confusion brought on by concussions, was a good way to earn respect from players, coaches and team management.

This sort of mentality has meant players often stay on the ice after a concussion, maybe thinking the injury isn’t real, or that they can just try and tough it out. Advancements in medical science and brave players like Thornton coming forward with their stories has taught us just how dangerous this can be.

While we can’t see a concussion like we can see other kinds of injury on the ice, we can recognize the symptoms and make sure the player is sitting. A concussion is as real as a broken ankle. Watch out for yourself and your buddies out there and make sure to get appropriate medical attention and monitor symptoms closely.

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