The current medical definition of a concussion is essentially a ‘transient alteration in mental status that may or may not require loss of consciousness that may result from a direct or indirect blow to the head.’ The struggle many of us feel when we read this is, ‘What does that mean?’
It is critical for orthopaedic surgeons who work on the sidelines of athletic teams, athletic trainers, athletes, parents of athletes, coaches and school administrators to be able to correctly recognize and diagnose a concussion. After an athlete suffers a head injury, any misdiagnosis may lead to severe brain damage, prolonged disability, and even death.
However, a concussion may be tough to diagnose if a person does not know what to look for, or if an athlete does not report his or her symptoms. A concussion can present itself in a variety of ways, making it difficult for non-concussion experts to detect, diagnose and treat. Other than temporary loss of consciousness, which is most recognizable, other signs and symptoms of a concussion include:
- Headache or “pressure” in head.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Balance problems or dizziness, or double or blurry vision.
- Bothered by light or noise.
- Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
- Confusion, or concentration or memory problems.
- Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down.”
While signs and symptoms of a concussion generally show up shortly after the injury, some symptoms may not show up for hours or days. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year in the United States. However, it is believed that around 50 percent of concussions go unreported.
Because the effects of a concussion are not always visible, many athletes return to their sport too quickly following a head injury. That’s why it’s crucial to educate parents, coaches and other athletic officials about the importance of having head injuries examined by a specialized physician who has experience caring for patients with concussion.
According to recent studies, 79 percent of Americans believe there is no way to cure a concussion and only 29 percent of Americans believe all concussions are treatable. These days, a concussion is fully treatable, but the key is to identify risk factors that may prolong and complicate recovery early on. At Emory, our team of concussion experts pioneer and utilize the latest treatment therapies to deliver treatment plans developed for each athlete. Some treatment recommendations include cognitive and physical rest, while others require more aggressive therapies. No two concussions are alike; therefore no two concussion treatment plans should the same.
To schedule a consultation with a concussion expert at Emory, or to see one of our sports medicine specialists, please request an appointment online or call 404-778-3350.
About Emory Sports Medicine Center
The Emory Sports Medicine Center is a leader in advanced treatments for patients with orthopaedic and sports-related injuries. From surgical sports medicine expertise to injury rehabilitation, our sports medicine physicians and specialists provide comprehensive treatments for athletic injuries in Atlanta, Dunwoody and Johns Creek. Constantly conducting research and developing new techniques, the sports medicine specialists at Emory are experienced in diagnosing and treating the full spectrum of sports injuries, including concussions.
About Dr. Pombo
Mathew Pombo, MD, joined the Emory Orthopaedic Surgery faculty as a highly regarded orthopaedic surgeon, speaker, author and researcher who specializes in getting patients with injuries back to an active lifestyle. His professional interests include anatomic single- and double-bundle ACL reconstruction, rotator cuff tears, shoulder instability, meniscal/cartilage injury and repair, joint preservation in the aging athlete, and minimally invasive joint replacement surgery of the knee and shoulder.
Dr. Pombo has conducted extensive scientific research, published multiple journal articles, written several book chapters, and has presented at both national and international meetings on topics related to sports medicine, concussions, and orthopaedic surgery. He has been instrumental in bringing awareness to sports-related concussions and the new Georgia “Return to Play” Act and is one of the top regarded experts in the area for the treatment of concussions. He currently serves as the Director of the Emory Sports Concussion Program.
Dr. Pombo, his wife, and two boys, Eli and Henry, live in Johns Creek, GA. Dr. Pombo enjoys spending time with his family during his days off. Many of his patients also enjoy watching him succeed in his second career as a professional race car driver, where he can be found driving at race tracks across North America.