Anyone who participates in sports activities is susceptible to injury. This is just a part of sports. The key to staying safe is knowing the most common types of injuries in your chosen sport, how they can occur, and how to treat them when they happen. For all contact sports, especially martial arts of all types, the concussion is a common injury that can be caused by a number of circumstances beyond the control of the martial artist.
According to THE SPORTS MEDICINE BIBLE by Lyle J. Michelli, M.D., a concussion is a “… temporary malfunction of the brain that involves actual brain damage.” A concussion can present in many ways, the athlete does not have to lose consciousness to have suffered a concussion. Knowing the signs of a concussion can make the difference between getting proper treatment , leading to full recovery, and the possibility of permanent disability or death.
Some signs of a concussion in a conscious victim include:
Persistant Dizziness and/or Nausea
Ringing in the Ears and/or Blurred Vision
Confusion (Attempts to engage in activities or conversations that do not fit the situation)
Memory Loss (Name, Phone Number, Location, Address, other commonly known information)
Signs to look for in an unconscious victim:
Irregular breathing and/or pulse
Blood or Clear Fluids coming from Eyes, Ears, Nose, or Mouth
Unequal or Unresponsive Pupils
Knowing what to look for after the injury is only one third of the battle, knowing how to spot a potential “concussive injury” is also of great importance. As stated earlier the victim may not lose consciousness and can even initially appear to have suffered no injury at all. Concussions can be caused by any impact to the head, especially those that cause a whiplash motion. A fall, as seen in arts such as Jiu-Jitsu and Aikido, can easily cause mild to severe concussions when the practitioner strikes the floor, mat, or even another body in a way that causes the head to come to a sudden stop or “bounce”. Sharp blows to the head, such as the kicks and punches of Karate and Taekwondo, can also cause a concussion, without the practitioner even being knocked off their feet. Because concussions are relatively easy to cause it is important that practitioners wear properly fitted safety gear.
Finally, if you believe someone has suffered a concussion it is critical that you know what to do to help them. First and foremost, send for qualified medical assistance. If the victim is conscious, get them out of “harm’s way” and begin monitoring for any irregularity in pulse or breathing as these are signs of the situation worsening. If the victim is unconscious make sure they are not in a dangerous location and do what you can to stabilize the head and neck without moving them. Under no circumstances should you try to remove the headgear from the victim without first assessing for neck injuries. The best practice is to summon trained medical assistance and let them assess the victim and remove the headgear. It is also not recommended that you use “smelling salts” or ammonia to revive the victim as the strong smell can cause them to jerk their head and worsen the potential neck injury.
Concussions are serious injuries, even the mild ones. A mild concussion, left untreated can lead to further brain damage and the possibility of further injury as the victim loses consciousness at a later, less safe time and place. Knowing how to detect a concussion, what causes them, and how to begin treatment can make a large difference in the lasting effects of a concussion will have on the victim. It is also important that all practitioners make sure their safety gear fits properly and is kept in good condition. A properly fitted, well maintained sparring or boxing helmet used in conjunction with a good mouthpiece can greatly reduce the chances of suffering a concussion. It is also possible to lower your odds of head injury by learning how to fall safely and practicing those skills until they are a natural response to falling. Concussions are serious injuries, but with proper instruction and safety precautions they need not be feared.