Be Proactive with Concussions

October 22, 2019

Henry Ford Health System

Most people have seen the headlines about concussions as a common sports injury, and it's natural that parents may be concerned for their young athlete. 

A large misconception in sports is that previous concussions are to be blamed for ongoing headaches, blurred visions and memory loss, among other symptoms.

“It’s really important to think about concussions in concert with overall brain health,” says Jeffrey Kutcher, M.D., a sports neurologist who treats athletes at the Henry Ford Concussion and Sports Neurology Clinic. “Concussions can be concerning, but they shouldn’t be looked at in a vacuum. The best way to prevent brain injury begins before the injury occurs.”

One way to do that is to consult with your child’s doctor or a sports neurologist for an annual evaluation. A sports neurologist focuses on managing sports-related brain and nervous system injuries and conditions in athletes, such as concussions, post-concussion syndrome, peripheral nerve injuries, migraines, epilepsy, and more.

“Having an annual evaluation of your athlete’s brain function when they are healthy and uninjured can help diagnose and treat issues when they arise,” says Dr. Kutcher.

Results from the baseline test can be used as an important tool for comparison by a qualified healthcare professional later if an athlete has a suspected concussion.


Best Practices to Ensure Your Athlete Stays Safe

Dr. Kutcher shares these tips for parents to make sure you’re keeping your child’s brain health and safety – not just their athletic performance – at the forefront:

• Get a brain health baseline. A proper baseline test should include a personal and family neurological history, with a focus on any active issues. It is important to note any neurological conditions that may influence concussion recovery, such as ADHD, depression, anxiety, or migraine headaches.

• Teach your kid to listen to her or his body. With any sport, there is a calculated risk to play. Teaching kids to listen to and be honest about how their body is feeling is the best way to prevent and treat injuries.

• In the event of an injury, look for the signs. Within 24 hours after an injury, an athlete should be evaluated if they are experiencing:
· Headaches
· Fatigue
· Dizziness and nausea
· Changes in sleep habits
· Trouble with memory
· Confusion
· Irritability and anxiety
· Light sensitivity

• Brain injuries don’t just occur with a blow to the head. They can also occur from falls, car accidents, or even through whiplash. If your child is experiencing any symptoms, be sure to consult your physician.

• Brain health is more than just concussions. If your athlete is complaining of chronic headaches, migraines, dizziness, memory or mood issues, there may be an underlying issue.

“There is no magic number of concussions a brain can sustain. Each individual is different,” Dr. Kutcher explains. “The impact severity and recovery time can greatly affect an athlete’s brain. By getting a baseline before the injury, we can establish a goal to work towards in recovery.”

Want to learn more? Henry Ford Health System sports medicine experts are treating the whole athlete, in a whole new way. From nutrition to neurology, and from injury prevention to treatment of sports-related conditions, they can give your athlete a unique game plan.

Visit or call (313) 972-4216 for an appointment within 24 business hours.

Coach's Guide to Nutrition: Hydration

Stay hydrated during exercise. Encourage athletes to take at least 2-3 sips (2-3 ounces) of water every 15 minutes.

Milk Means More logoExercising for more than an hour? Sports drinks can help replace fluid, carbs and electrolytes.

Some athletes do not feel thirsty while they are active, so regular water breaks are important. As always, if they feel thirsty, let them grab a drink. If they feel dizzy, confused or nauseated, they should STOP and tell a coach or teammate. This may indicate they are dangerously dehydrated. Access to water should NEVER be used as a punishment.

Athletes should also look for these symptoms in teammates and remind them to hydrate when necessary. For a more individualized recommendation or for athletes with a cramping history, refer them to a Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN).

Dehydration Warning Signs:

  • Cramping
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

Information above is excerpted from UDIM’s A Coach’s Guide to Nutrition.