Detecting and Treating Concussions
In the past few years, it has become increasingly evident that concussions can cause serious long-term neurological damage if not properly treated. Athletes in high-impact contact sports are particularly at risk, with one in 10 suffering a concussion during any sports season.
A lack of awareness of the signs and symptoms often lead athletic trainers, coaches and parents to allow athletes to return to play too soon following initial injury, placing them at risk of more serious brain damage. Recent neuropsychological research also indicates that young athletes may need a longer recovery time than older athletes following concussion.
The Ironman Sports Medicine Institute at Memorial Hermann's Concussion Program is a robust system of education, awareness, prevention, intervention and clinical care, to assist athletic trainers, coaches and parents in keeping their athletes safe from the dangers of concussion.& The Concussion Program is under the director of Summer Ott, Psy.D., one of the foremost authorities on sports concussion management and a catalyst behind Texas Senate Bill 2038 also know as "Natasha's Law". HB2038 established proper management and return-to-play guidelines for school-aged athletes who have sustained a concussion.
Our Sports Concussion Program includes:
- Concussion awareness training for physicians, coaches, athletic trainers and parents
- On-field concussion evaluation tools
- Pre and post concussion ImPACT™ neurocognitive testing facilitated by trained medical professionals
- Direct access to medical experts for treatment of concussions and head injuries, and recommendations on return to play guidelines and academic modifications
What To Do If You Suspect a Concussion
Athletes who experience any of the signs and symptoms of a concussion after a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body should be kept out of play for the remainder of the day need to be until seen by a health care professional experienced in evaluating concussions. Your health care provider can then refer you to a neuropsychologist, neurologist, or other specialist in rehabilitation. Contact us for a physician referral.
Signs and Symptoms of Concussion
A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body that can change the way your brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth.
You cannot see a concussion. Signs and symptoms may appear immediately following the injury or may not be noticed until days or longer after the injury.
Observable Signs of a Concussion
- Appears to be dazed or stunned
- Is confused about assignments or position
- Forgets instruction such as sports plays
- Is unsure of game, score or opponent
- Moves clumsily
- Answers questions slowly
- Loses consciousness (even briefly)
- Cannot recall events PRIOR to hit or fall (retrograde amnesia)
- Cannot recall event AFTER hit or fall (anterograde amnesia)
Symptoms Reported by the Athlete
- Headache or pressure in head
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or balance problems
- Double or blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to noise
- Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, groggy or slowed down
- Concentration or memory problems
- Generally does"not feel right" or is "feeling down"
When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention at an Emergency Room
If a concussion has occurred, be observant for the following signs. If any of the signs with an asterisk (*) are observed, seek medical attention at the nearest emergency room or call 9-1-1.
- Headache that increases in intensity*
- Nausea or vomiting*
- Difference in pupil size from left eye to right eye or dilated pupils*
- Blurred or double vision*
- Slurred speech*
- Noticeable changes in level of consciousness (difficulty awakening or sudden loss of consciousness)*
- Decreased or irregular pulse or breathing*
- Mental confusion or behavior changes
- Memory Loss
- Ringing in the ears
- Changes in gait or balance
Under Texas House Bill 2038, any school-age athlete who exhibits signs and symptoms of concussion must be removed from play immediately and is not allowed to participate in games or practices until the athlete has been evaluated and given permission by an appropriate health care provider.
The athlete must also complete a Return-To-Play Protocol before full participation can begin. Go to the UIL website to learn more.
Most people with a concussion recover quickly and fully; however, symptoms can last for days, weeks or longer. Research shows that high school athletes with less than 15 minutes of on-field symptoms experienced symptoms lasting up to one week post-injury. Symptoms have been known to last longer than one week.
Rest is very important after a concussion because it helps the brain to heal. This includes limiting or removing use of television, cell phones, texting, video games, etc.
Your physician may recommend additional neuropsychological testing, which many include a full battery of paper/pencil testing, vestibular testing, computerized cognitive testing, and more which can help identify problems with brain function. Learn more about neuropsychological testing.
The Importance of Baseline and Post-Injury Neurocognitive Testing
Baseline testing is a pre-season exam conducted by neuropsychologists, neurologists, or other physicians and medical professionals such as athletic trainers specifically trained in concussion management. Baseline tests are used to assess an athlete's balance and brain functions (.i.e., learning and memory skills, ability to pay attention or concentrate, and how quickly he or she thinks and solves problems) prior to a concussion being sustained. The results from baseline tests can then be used and compared to similar post-injury tests in the event the athlete suffers a concussion.
Baseline testing ideally should take place prior to the first practice of the season. Most cognitive testing both paper-pencil as well as computerized testing is suggested for athletes 10 years of age and older. Additional neuropsychological tests are available to access children under the age of 10.
ImPACT™ (Immediate Post‐Concussion Assessment Cognitive Test) is a web‐based, scientifically validated computerized concussion evaluation test used to test your cognitive ability. It is NOT an IQ test. It is a test of verbal and visual memory, processing speed and reaction time. It tests aspects of cognitive functioning in athletes with attention span, working memory, sustained and selective attention time, response variability, non‐verbal problem solving and reaction time. ImPACT™ baseline testing takes approximately 30 minutes to administer and the Ironman Sports Medicine Institute Concussion Program at Memorial Hermann offers this baseline test free of charge to all school-aged athletes.
Learn more about ImPACT™ and get tested.
Baseline Testing and Concussion Evaluations are Available at:
Ironman Sports Medicine Institute at Memorial Hermann
Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza
6400 Fannin #1620
Houston, TX 77030
Phone (713) 704-9647
Fax (713) 704-0991
Request an Appointment
To request an appointment with a concussion specialist in your area, please contact us.
Houston Concussion Specialists
Summer Ott, Psy.D
Director, Concussion Program
Clinic Manager, Concussion Program
Licensed Athletic Trainer