Sports Medicine

How to Be Smart About Concussion Risk

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

The association between playing contact sports and suffering a concussion is very real. One estimate suggests that the likelihood of suffering a concussion while playing a contact sport may be as high as 19 percent per year of play.

Knowledge is power, however, and heightened awareness about concussion can be a difference maker when it comes to the safety of athletes, says Henry Ford sports medicine physician Jennifer Trpkovski, D.O.

“Awareness of concussion has really benefited sport,” she says. “If you are aware of what to look for — the signs and symptoms of a concussion — and are forthcoming about your symptoms, we can treat you and get you back to sport safely and more timely.”

What Is A Concussion?

A concussion is an injury to the brain that occurs after direct impact to the head or a trauma to the body that leads to symptoms such as dizziness, headache and feeling off balance. And while football is most often linked to the prevalence of concussion, any contact sport poses a risk. Recent research also suggests that females may be more at risk than their male counterparts, says Dr. Trpkovski.

“We believe this to be hormonal in nature. Females have hormones that can prolong their symptoms. They also have a higher tendency to report symptoms than males,” she says.

Common red flags for a concussion that require immediate medical evaluation include:

  • Worsening headache
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • Inability to recognize faces
  • Loss of consciousness

“Symptoms can last anywhere from a week to several weeks depending on your age,” Dr. Trpkovski says.

Dr. Trpkovski cautions athletes against returning to sport too soon after a concussion.

“An athlete should be cleared by a medical physician prior to return to sport,” she says. “This should include a graduated return to play protocol where you’re not just jumping right back into activity. The reason for this is your symptoms may re-occur as you’re going through a graduated protocol and you could end up with prolonged symptoms, prolonged recovery and actually missing more of a season and potentially a worse injury.”

Henry Ford’s Concussion Clinic specializes in the treatment of concussions. Diagnosis and treatment is guided by a team of medical professionals in sports medicine, neuropsychology and athletic training. Athletes also undergo computer testing that evaluate their brain and cognitive skills before return to sport.

If you have a sports injury, you can request an appointment with a sports medicine specialist online now or call (313) 976-4216 and we’ll see you within 24 business hours. 

Dr. Jennifer Trpkovski is a sports medicine physician seeing patients at the William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine in Detroit and at Henry Ford Medical Centers in Dearborn and Novi.