Every swimmer can respond to a brain injury differently. Knowing the signs and symptoms related to a concussion will allow you to treat the injury before it progresses to something more serious.
What is a Concussion?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a concussion "a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works." Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth.
Signs & Symptoms
Athletes do not have to be "knocked out" to have a concussion. Less than 10% of all concussions result in a loss of consciousness. Symptoms can develop instantly or up to 48 hours after the injury occurred.
- Athlete appears dazed, stunned or confused
- Unsure about event details
- Forgets an instruction or assignment
- Moves clumsily
- Answers questions slowly
- Loses consciousness (even briefly)
- Shows mood, behavior or personality changes
- Cannot recall events before or after the incident
- Any headache or "pressure" in the head - severity of pain does not matter
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance problems or dizziness
- Sensitivity to light and/or noise
- Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
- Concentration or memory problems
- Trouble falling asleep
- Sleeping more or less than usual
Seeking Medical Attention
If you suspect that you have a concussion, seeking medical attention on the day of the incident is important. Only a health care professional will be able to determine when you are ready to return to swimming. Returning to swimming too early may cause Second Impact Syndrome (SIS) or Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) both of which can cause permanent, long-term symptoms.
Returning to Swimming
Each individual will return to the pool at a different speed. California law requires that a swimmer receive wirtten approval from a healthcare professional before they are allowed to return to practice. Before returning make sure that all of your child's coaches are aware that your child has suffered a concussion. When returning to practice, the swimmer should not return to full practice immediately; the swimmer should complete a step-by-step exercise-based progression.