How to Treat a Concussion
This information is provided only as a non-medical resource for people who may have recently suffered an injury that is causing symptoms consistent with those displayed by patients with a diagnosed concussion. It is not medical advice, and should
not prevent you from seeking proper medical attention. Pure Hockey does not encourage self-diagnosis, self-treatment, or deferring proper medical examinations in any circumstance. If you believe you may have suffered an injury, please consult a doctor for a comprehensive medical evaluation.
If you spot the signs of a concussion in a fellow hockey player or believe you may have suffered one yourself, there are few treatment strategies you can practice immediately after the impact and beyond to aid in recovery. Overall, hockey is a safe
sport thanks to good protective gear and safety rules that protect players. But concussions in hockey are a risk of the game: any time you're on the ice, an accident can cause an injury, whether it's an out-of-control skater, a trip and fall,
or hard contact with the boards. Knowing how to treat a player who has taken a blow to the head and protecting him or her from further impact following the hit can lead to a shortened recovery time and improved prognosis.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion occurs when the brain impacts the skull or is shaken or twisted, resulting in a traumatic injury to the brain, according to the Brain Injury Association.1 It can happen when the player's head hits the ice,
the boards, or another player; or it can be a whiplash-style impact in which a player's body suffers a big hit, causing the head to snap and the brain to be jarred inside the skull. Not every concussion comes from the most violent, obvious impacts,
so it's important always to be vigilant.
Concussion Treatment After a Big Hit
A doctor should evaluate any player who suffers an impact and shows any signs of a concussion, and certainly for serious head injuries. One of the first rules for treating a hockey concussion is to keep the injured player off the ice—allowing
the player to return to the ice puts him or her at risk of suffering additional impacts. Hockey can attract players who enjoy hard contact and aggression; that's why some leagues allow checking. But don't let a tough guy grab his helmet and head
back onto the ice for another shift with the promise of seeing a doctor after the game. According to an article by Cornell Health, which is part of Cornell University,2 additional blows can worsen the impact of a concussion,
and protecting the player immediately is the key to beginning the recovery process. If the player takes a violent hit and shows any symptoms of a concussion, assume s/he may have suffered one. Do not let the player convince you he or she is fine.
The player may not immediately realize the blow had an effect and may not have the good judgement to know if he or she is actually OK to continue. Missing a shift won't hurt much besides a player's pride, but skating that shift might have long-term
Seeing a Doctor After a Concussion
Anybody who suffers a concussion, or shows symptoms of a concussion should see a doctor, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.3 Whether a player goes straight to the emergency department to be evaluated
following a big hit, or decides to go the next day, the doctor will perform tests and prescribe a treatment. While there is no diagnostic test that comes back positive or negative for a concussion, there are signs a doctor can observe to make
an educated diagnosis. Sometimes the signs are obvious, and along with a description of how the injury occurred, can make the diagnosis straightforward. According to the Mayo Clinic,4 doctor will have to check a person’s
strength, balance, reflexes, memory, attentiveness, and sensation. The doctor will determine the treatment necessary, and may order additional scans or imaging to rule out a more serious injury.
Treatment Options for a Concussion
A doctor will outline a detailed set of instructions for what to do, or what not to do to treat the concussion, with a prescribed follow-up for additional testing before the player is cleared. Beyond the doctor’s care, the key ingredient for
recovery is resting the body and brain. Monitoring your symptoms and following doctor’s orders are key, according to Cornell Health.5 That means avoiding things that stimulate the brain, as well as physical activities.
If an activity causes symptoms to return or worsen, it should be eliminated and replaced with more rest. Some therapies go as far as to put the person in a dark room with no stimulus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests a variety
Being limited to rest for days or even weeks can be tedious, but it’s an important part of recovery. And returning to activity too soon, or not resting the body and brain long enough, can increase how long it takes to recover from a concussion.
Following doctor’s orders is critical to reducing the recovery time. And getting the appropriate treatment can not only reduce the recovery time, but also help ensure that your brain has fully recovered to limit the risk of an additional
injury with long-term consequences.