According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries (TBI) occur each year and a majority of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild TBI.
About.com spoke with Josh Waltier, MPT, ATC, COMT, athletic training director at Apple Physical Therapy Federal Way, Washington about concussions and how to prevent them.
About.com: What is a concussion?
Waltier: A concussion is a brain injury usually caused by an impact affecting its function. Each concussion varies in symptom presentation but typically improves within 7-10 days.
About.com :What causes a concussion, specifically in cycling?
Waltier: A concussion in cycling can be caused by a fall that leads to a direct blow to the head or the body that transmits force to the head. This usually occurs as a result of an impact with the ground, a rock, a tree, another biker, or any other object.
About.com:What are the symptoms of a concussion?
Waltier: Acute clinical symptoms of a concussion include experiencing any or all of the following present after a trauma: headache, “Pressure in head,” neck pain, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, balance problems, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to noise, feeling slowed down, feeling like “in a fog," “don’t feel right,” difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering, fatigue or low energy, confusion, drowsiness, trouble falling asleep, more emotional, irritability, sadness, nervous or anxious.
About.com:How is a concussion diagnosed?
Waltier: If a concussion is suspected a concussive evaluation should be performed by a medical provider trained in diagnosing concussions. They will use an assessment tool such as the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT3). This tool examines the physical and cognitive functions of the brain to determine what areas may be affected by the injury.
About.com:What steps should a cyclist take immediately after being diagnosed?
Waltier: It is important to discontinue physical activity, especially cycling, immediately after a concussion. The risk of increased severity is much higher while still experiencing symptoms of a concussion and every precaution should be taken to reduce further injury. Symptoms of a concussion are often changing in severity during the recovery process so it is important not to be left alone in case symptoms worsen. Until symptoms resolve and stabilize it is also important to avoid driving motor vehicles or operating heavy equipment which demands mental concentration.
About.com:How is it treated?
Waltier: After being diagnosed with a concussion, a cyclist should make efforts to reduce the physical and cognitive stress to his/her brain. Physical rest would include avoiding physical exertion such as cycling, jogging, weight lifting or any other form of exercise. Cognitive rest includes avoidance of mental processing tasks such as reading, watching television or movies, computer work and especially texting. These are difficult things to avoid in today’s culture, but if performing them causes symptoms to become more intense or linger they are likely hindering the recovery from concussion.
Before returning to cycling, or other athletics, it is important to perform a progressive exertional protocol to make sure they have fully recovered. This can be performed by a certified athletic trainer or physical therapist.
About.com:How can cyclists prevent a concussion?
Waltier: Preventing concussions is as simple as wearing a properly fitted helmet when cycling. Comparisons in research indicate that helmet use reduce head injuries by 45%, brain injuries by 33% and fatal cycling injuries by 29%.
Attewell et al. Bicycle helmet efficacy: a meta-analysis. Accident Analysis & Prevention 2001 33: 345-352.
McCrory et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport: the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, November 2012. Br J Sports Med 2013; 47: 250-258.