A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that causes immediate alteration or temporary loss in normal brain function. Sports concussion is a serious problem and dealing with it is a frustrating experience. It occurs because of a direct hit to the head or from any sudden action that prompts the head to whip back or to the side while playing various sports. It affects athletes, from school league players to professional players.
When to worry if you have a sports concussion?
Most times, concussions resolve with no long-lasting effects. However, it is important to stay alert for any signs and symptoms of a concussion. Sometimes, sports concussions can lead to a more severe injury that may require treatment. Also, concussions can take up to 3 days for symptoms to become apparent. If you experience a concussion or have received a hit to the head while playing sports, then seek emergency treatment.
Look out for these signs and symptoms if you have sustained any head injury or suspect a sports concussion.
- Intense and sudden headaches that do not go away
- Tingling sensation
- Difficulty in finding the right words
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Unusual sense of taste
- Loss of consciousness
- Weakness in the arm or leg
- Double vision
- Difficulty in balancing the body
- Paralysis in any part of the body
- Loss of memory or awareness
How to recover from a sports concussion?
The chances of making a full recovery are higher if you immediately stop playing the sport and seek early treatment. Recovering from a concussion is not an effortless task. It is mentally, physically, and emotionally quite challenging.
Here are some tips for recovering from a sports concussion.
Rest: Get plenty of rest. It is the most crucial thing to do while recovering from a sports concussion. Resting helps the body and mind to heal and reduces stress levels. Take it easy in the first few days after a concussion or injury. Limit physical and mental activities. Avoid strenuous exercise for some days so that symptoms don’t worsen.
Limit screen time: Eye strain because of bright lights from the screen can make symptoms of concussions worse, especially headaches. So, it is best to reduce screen time and limit looking at the laptop, television, etc.
Light activity: It is best to avoid unnecessary movement of the neck and head. Do not do things that can cause the neck or head to jostle around. Movement of the head and neck can cause a concussion. So, avoiding these types of motions gives the brain and body a chance to recover.
Hydration: Dehydration increases the chances of concussion. Hence, staying hydrated while playing sports is probably a great idea. Also, proper hydration is essential while the body is healing from a concussion.
Eat protein: Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that are essential for a healthy brain. Branched-chain amino acids help in cell production and tissue repair. A protein-rich diet thus can help to improve the cognitive symptoms because of a brain injury or concussion. With athletes, the additional supply of protein aids in maintaining weight and reducing muscle mass loss. Some trusted sources of branched-chain amino acids include nuts, meats, beans, and fish.
Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids help improve plasticity, cognition, and the recovery of neurons after a sports injury. These fatty acids, specifically Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), reduce inflammation. It also promotes overall health and cell structure. Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids include fish, soy, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, etc. Fish oil supplements can also help in the recovery period.
Increase intake of antioxidants: Vitamin C, D, and E are antioxidant vitamins. They improve memory, neural functioning, and are effective in concussion recovery. These antioxidants decrease or delay cell destruction and help the body repair itself. Excellent sources of vitamin C include citrus and tropical fruits and vegetables. Some rich sources of vitamin D are fortified milk products, etc. Lastly, for vitamin E, eat avocado, nuts/seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, fish, and eggs.
Return to daily activities: Only when the symptoms of sports concussions are gone, you can return to most regular daily routine activities. Take breaks if needed and try not to jump right back into doing everything at once. Take it easy for a few weeks as this will help get back to everyday routine life faster.
Follow the doctor’s advice and take prescribed medications on time. Treatment and recovery after a sports concussion or traumatic brain injury take time. So, be patient and do not rush in getting back to everyday life. It is best to prevent injury with the help of proper protective equipment.