As we know, roller derby is a pretty intense sport and injuries can happen no matter how careful you are. All injuries are serious, but probably the most serious is concussion, especially as the effects aren’t so obvious.
There are lots of different aspects to concussions and while we’re not medical professionals it’s essential that everyone knows how to spot a concussion in themselves and other people.
First of all, what is concussion?
Concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Essentially, your brain is a gelatinous mass floating in liquid, in a rigid container. If you move that container quickly (i.e. either accelerate or decelerate very quickly) the brain can ‘bump’ into the sides of the container. This sharp movement disrupts the stable environment that the neurons in your brain need to send electrical signals and prevents them from functioning properly.
If you suspect a team mate has concussion, fully assess them using the SCAT (standard sports concussion assessment documents) checklist and decide whether medical attention is needed. If your league doesn’t have a SCAT checklist around, it’s definitely time to get one.
While everyone has some vague knowledge of concussion and its symptoms, here are 7 things you might not know about concussion…
1. Concussion can happen even if you haven’t had a hit to the head
A concussion is not always caused by hits to the head, and could be caused by an intense hit to the body that causes the head to jolt. Taking a big fall on the track and having your head snap back could also cause concussion.
Concussions cause people to be unsteady on their feet, and when wearing skates this is extra dangerous. So if someone has a suspected concussion make sure you get their skates off straight away and allow 2 people to accompany them back to the bench, if they feel able to walk. If the skater has an injury that prevents them from being able to move, do not attempt to carry them and wait for the paramedics to arrive.
3. Symptoms can last for weeks
Symptoms for concussion can last for a few hours or for weeks after. It is essential that skaters returning after enduring a concussion are monitored by team mates to make sure they are not still suffering symptoms. So make sure they get plenty of rest, heal up completely (and then some) and are signed off by a medical professional before skating again.Taking time out now, means less time off in the long run due to re-injury.
4. Concussions will not always result in loss of consciousness
Concussions will not always result in a loss of consciousness. Though this is probably the most severe side effect, and anyone who loses consciousness (even for a second) must be taken to hospital immediately.
Normal bout days or scrimmages can get confusing for even the most experienced skaters, but a team mate who has suffered a concussion will be especially confused, irritable and emotional. They may even not know where they are, or talk about things that don’t make sense (and not just some new complicated strategy that they saw during play-offs).
6. Having a previous concussion increases your risk of another concussion
The risk of another concussion rises significantly with every additional concussion. Some evidence indicates that a single concussion can double your risk, while a history of two concussions triples-quadruples your risk of another one. So make sure you take the time out that you need before putting those skates back on.
7. Concussion isn’t just a bad headache
Other symptoms of concussion include not being able to focus, becoming emotional, nausea (in rare cases vomiting), not feeling right and changes in vision even if brief. Any of these symptoms, or a combination of these symptoms is likely to be a concussion.
If you have suffered a concussion and have to be off skates for a while, use this as an opportunity to get more involved in your committee or join your league’s NSO crew. Everyone will be grateful for the extra help, and you won’t feel so left out while you’re off skates. Make sure you’re feeling well enough before you take on these extra commitments though!
Remember, love your teammates! Concussion is a serious injury and must be treated as such. Encourage your teammate to go and see their GP, even if they think it’s nothing. Facilitate a community where people don’t feel like they’re being ‘weak’ or letting their team down by taking time out. You only get one noggin! And for the love of derby, replace your helmet regularly.