Concussions continue to be a hot topic in the world of sports and a concern for parents of athletes. Alex Noll, DO, CAQ, lead physician of TRIA’s Sport Concussion Program, offers advice on what to do if you think you have a concussion.

Stop playing and get off the field

The first thing to do is get off the field. Tell your coaches, parents or athletic trainer you may have suffered a concussion. Athletic trainers have specialized training in concussion injuries. Coaches also have to hold mandatory concussion training. Letting one of these people know can help you get to the right person to manage the injury.

Do not play through the concussion symptoms

Trying to play through concussion symptoms will only make the injury worse. Athletes who try may experience more headaches, dizziness, fogginess, nausea or fatigue. This only delays the brain’s recovery after a concussion. The brain uses up its energy reserve when it is trying to heal. Therefore, it needs to borrow energy from muscles and other areas of the body. If you work out too much, you deprive the brain of the energy it needs to recover and symptoms will last longer.

Seek a medical attention

An athletic trainer or other medical professional trained in concussion management should evaluate the athlete. There is no single test to diagnose a concussion or predict the length of recovery. That is why it is important to have a full medical evaluation and treatment plan in place. Minnesota law requires athletes with concussion symptoms to cleared before returning to play.

Rest is important for recovery

Pacing your daily activities and tasks can help you manage academic requirements. Falling behind in school often leads to anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. Being in the right frame of mind, feeling well and having a positive outlook on recovery can help you manage your symptoms.

Follow the 5-Step Return to Play Protocol

Once you are feeling back to normal with day-to-day routines does not mean you are ready to jump back into play. Before returning to the field of play you should follow a step wise return to play protocol. This tests your body’s response to physical activity.

After a concussion, you may feel fine at rest but notice symptoms when you exercise or do athletic drills. Following the recommended protocol helps athletes know if symptoms are gone before getting back onto the playing field.

5-Step Return to Play Protocol to be started once symptom free at rest

Step 1: Light aerobic activity

Goal: Increase an athlete’s heart rate

Time: 5 to 15 minutes

Activities: Exercise bike, walking or light jogging. No resistance training, jumping or sprinting.

Step 2: Moderate activity

Goal: Limited body and head movement.

Time: Reduced from typical routine

Activities: Moderate jogging, brief running, moderate-intensity stationary biking and moderate-intensity weightlifting

Step 3: Heavy, non-contact activity

Goal: More intense but non-contact

Time: Close to typical routine

Activities: Running, high-intensity stationary biking, the player’s regular weightlifting routine, and non-contact sport-specific drills. This stage may add some cognitive component to practice in addition to the aerobic and movement components introduced in Steps 1 and 2.

Step 4: Practice and full contact

Goal: Reintegrate in full contact practice

Step 5: Competition

Goal: Return to competition

Our orthopedic urgent care clinics are open seven days a week, no appointment needed at TRIA’s locations in Bloomington, Maple Grove and Woodbury.