Epidemiology: Can occur at any age.
Mechanism of Injury/Description: A direct blow/hit to the head/neck/face, or any impact force to the head can cause a concussion. This injury is also known as a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Signs/Symptoms: The gymnast will experience headaches, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, balance problems, vision changes, difficulty concentrating, feeling “in a fog”, irritability, and changes to sleep patterns.
Diagnosis: A concussion can be diagnosed by physical exam with testing of Cranial nerves/concussion screen, BESS testing, and/or a sideline evaluation (SCAT 5). A CT scan or MRI may be ordered depending on severity and duration of the gymnast’s signs/symptoms.
Treatment: Immediately remove the gymnast from practice or competition and have the athlete do cognitive and physical rest for 24-48 hours and see a medical provider. Once you have been seen by a medical provider and receive clearance, a gradual progression back into gymnastics should be performed. Please see USAG Concussion Information.
Prevention: To prevent a concussion practice neck strengthening exercises and consider having each gymnast do a baseline IMPACT test prior to the start of each season. Check with local medical providers to see if they are offering this testing.
Gymnastics Medical Provider PEARLS: Gymnastics requires a significant amount of proprioception and balance and with a concussion this can sometimes take gymnasts longer to progress back in. Review over the guidelines and information put together by USA Gymnastics (link above) and see our blog on Concussion education.
Gymnast, Parent, and Coach PEARLS: If a concussion is suspected, stop the practice/competition and have your gymnast see a medical provider for evaluation.
Complications of concussion:
- Second Impact Syndrome
- Post concussion Syndrome
- Intracranial hemorrhage
- CTE (chronic traumatic Encephalopathy)
For more information, read our blog on Concussion Education.