Concussion In Sport And Life

Concussion is an injury that is generally ignored as a medical and health concern, but is an injury that needs to be taken more seriously as it can have consequential long-term effects. The fact that damage to the brain or the functioning of the brain can be detected after concussions means we should be more aware of how to prevent, treat and diagnose this serious injury.

Who needs to be educated on concussion?

* Athletes * Coaches

* First aiders * Teachers

* Parents * GPs

* Physiotherapists * Emergency medical staff

* General public

What is concussion?

  • Concussion is a traumatic injury to the brain causing temporary disturbance of how the brain functions.
  • Concussions are usually caused by direct impacts to the head, but can also be caused without the head being involved, indirect impacts, such as whiplash. Any impacts to the body or the head which cause violent rotational or forward and backward movements of the head can cause a concussion injury.
  • Concussions do not only occur in contact sport, they have been seen in sports such as water polo, hockey, gymnastics, cycling and table tennis and they do not only occur in sports, incidents such as car accidents or even going on roller coasters can cause concussion
  • Concussions are potentially serious, but up to 90% of people recover fully. It must be noted that every concussion injures your brain to some extent and so is potentially serious.
  • A repeat concussion before a previous one has resolved can lead to brain swelling and even death. This is known as Second Impact Syndrome and has seen the loss of lives in a number of athletes around the world. Injuries to the brain are the most common cause of death in sport.

Concussion Symptoms

  • Loss of consciousness occurs in only 8% of cases, in 92% of them it DOES NOT. Due to this, most people are unaware that they have a concussion and this is where the danger lies. Concussions are generally missed, undiagnosed or blatantly ignored as a serious injury.
  • Concussion symptoms can be delayed, occurring hours or days after the concussion has occurred.
  • One concussion increases your risk of another just like any other injury to the body and you’re 3 (three) times more likely to sustain a second concussion in the same season.
  • Concussion presents in many different ways depending on the area of the brain that’s been injured, you don’t have to lose consciousness or memory to have a concussion.
  • X-rays and brain scans cannot rule out a concussion. Remember, concussion is an injury to the brain causing disturbance of brain function, X-rays and scans cannot look at brain function, they can only pick up potential fractures to the skull or soft tissue damage such as bleeding, so just because they’re normal does not mean you do not have a concussion, you could still have a serious injury .



Headache or “pressure in head” Appears dazed or stunned
Nausea or vomiting Imbalanced or unsteady
Ringing in ears Confused or disorientated
Unsteadiness or dizziness Loss of consciousness
Blurred or double vision, seeing starts or lights Seizure / fit
Sensitivity to light or noise Poor play ability, clumsiness, slowed reactions
Poor concentration Answers questions slowly, slurred speech
Symptoms worsened with reading / TV / PC Behavioural or personality changes
Feelings of being groggy, hazy, foggy Can’t remember events before or after injury
Poor memory Poor classroom performance
Drowsiness, sleep disturbances, excessive tiredness
Numbness or weakness of limbs
Feelings of being sad
  • The severity of a concussion is not related to the severity of the signs and symptoms. The severity is determined by how long it takes for the concussion to resolve completely


  • Go to the hospital immediately if signs or symptoms deteriorate or new ones appear.
  • DO NOT drink, drive, take medication, go to nightclubs, watch TV, gym or go back to exercise, sport or training.
  • REST!

Return to Play

When it comes to rugby related concussion, the IRB rule is three weeks NO play regardless of when signs and symptoms have resolved. I would apply this rule to all sports and all concussion. A concussion is a concussion, regardless of how it came about and the only way to treat this injury is REST!

Article sponsored by Health International


Article by Kristy Delport. Kristy is a Zimbabwe and South Africa registered Biokineticist. You can contact her using email or phone at and 0775 463 191.