Symmetry Blog

Injury of the week - Concussion

Symmetry Physio - Monday, May 08, 2017

Bringing back our informative article looking at injuries on the sporting field.


Four players were unable to continue to play during round 6 of the AFL this weekend after suffering a concussion; Tom Liberatore (Western Bulldogs), Gary Rohan (Sydney), Matt Rosa and Aaron Hall (Gold Coast).

The nature of Australian Football is that it is a high contact sport. For every 1000 AFL playing hours there will be six concussions on average. The high contact rule aims to minimise the risk of sustaining a knock to the head however, players can still experience concussion from an accidental knock to the head, a fall onto the ground or even from heavy body contact as the brain experiences a whiplash type moment inside the skull.

Concussion is a brain injury which, although temporary for the majority of cases, should be taken very seriously to avoid long-term complications. Diagnosis is based on symptoms following a potential head trauma mechanism. Some of the most common indications, signs and symptoms that concussion may be present include:

  • A player does not need to be knocked unconscious to suffer concussion, however, when they are, concussion is assumed until proven otherwise.
  • Player 'just not feeling right' or acting abnormally.
  • Headache, dizziness, nausea, neck pain
  • Drowsy, foggy fatigued
  • Poor balance, lack of concentration and co-ordination
  • Glassy eyes or blank stare
  • Tonic posturing, seizure, spinal injury symptoms

The SCAt3 is a standardised tool for evaluating injured athletes for concussion straight after an injury and can be used in athletes from 13 years.

Interestingly, players who continue to play with a concussion are at a higher risk of another physical injury eg. ACL rupture. All concussions should be reviewed by a medical practitioner as soon as possible. Those who were knocked unconscious, show significant signs and symptoms, or whose symptoms deteriorate over time should be seen immediately through emergency or sent for scans to rule out a more significant brain injury.

All four of these players would have taken complete brain rest for at least 24 hours, this means no cell phones, no reading, no stimulating the brain in any way. Following this, they will be able to trial some light aerobic activity as studies show this benefits recovery. If their symptoms are not worsened by this, they will return to light training, followed by progression into full contact training gradually as their symptoms resolve. Some players will be able to return for next weeks play if their symptom resolution is quick, however, some can be out for weeks, even months.

The most important thing to remember is that ALL concussion should be cleared by a medical practitioner prior to returning to play. The brain must be fully healed to avoid the risk of long-term complications should another injury occur.

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