Kristen Ziesmer, Sports Dietitian - Concussions and Athletes

Concussions and Athletes

What are Concussions and how can Athletes prevent them?

Concussions have become a regular event in sports. It seems like every day you read about an athlete that suffers a concussion and has to be held out from practice and competition, so what exactly is a concussion?

Concussion comes from the Latin word “concutere” which means to shake violently. A concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. There is no exact medical definition for concussion as different physicians have varying opinions on what constitutes a concussion. It is clear however that the varying opinions agree that a concession leads to neurological impairment. It is also agreed that there are varying grades of concussion severity and I have added the table below.

concussion and athletes


Concussion Symptoms:

The loss of consciousness following a blow to the head is the best symptom that a concussion has occurred. If there is no loss of consciousness then the following symptoms might indicate a concussion:

  1. Worsening Headaches
  2. Repeated Vomiting
  3. Dizziness
  4. Excessive Drowsiness
  5. Blurred Vision
  6. Slurred Speech


  1. Physical Rest: It is recommended that the patient doesn’t participate in physical activity until all symptoms have been resolved.
  2. Cognitive Rest: It is recommended that the patient reduce activities which require concentration. These activities include video games, schoolwork and text messaging.
  3. Rest in a Dark area: it is recommended that the patient rest in a dark area to further speed up the recovery process. Light is a stimulus, which sends information to the brain that the brain has to process.

Rehab for Athletes After Being Symptom Free:

The 2008 Zurich Consensus statement on concussion in sports recommends the athlete progressing through the following steps before a return to competition.

  1. Complete physical and cognitive rest: The athlete is to rest and not conduct any physical activity until they are symptom free for 24 hours.
  2. Light aerobic activity (less than 70% of maximum heart rate).
  3. Sport-specific activities such as running drills and skating drills.
  4. Non-contact training drills (exercise, coordination, and cognitive load).
  5. Full Contact practice.
  6. Return to competition.

How to Reduce Concussions in Athletes:

  1. Studies have shown that strengthening neck muscles helps reduce the risk of concussions. Watch the following videos for exercises can help strengthen your neck:

In Summary

  1. Get a lot of rest.
  2. Avoid activities that require concentration.
  3. Don’t train until symptoms have been completely resolved.
  4. Slowly ease your way back into training , don’t jump right in.
  5. Be careful , once you sustain a concussion, you are more at risk of suffering another one.

Contact me any time to schedule a free 15-minute consultation, so we can discuss your particular situation and goals.

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