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Early Symptoms Shed Light On Severity Of Concussions

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Athletes with four or more concussion symptoms from the start of the injury are more likely to have a concussion lasting longer than a week, according to a recent study from the University of Washington.

The research, led by Sara Chrisman of the University of Washington´s Department of Paediatrics, looked at data provided by high schools across the country to see how initial symptoms could predict the severity of the head injury.

While there are at least 22 symptoms associated with concussions, such as drowsiness, headache, sensitivity to light and ringing in the ears, it is generally believed that the concussion is severe only if the athlete loses consciousness, which happens in about 10% of cases. However, the study results disprove this idea, helping to raise the level of awareness in all sports, not only football, where head collisions and concussions are common and helping to address the problem through more evidence-based return-to-play guidelines.

Researchers are seeking to determine in which cases players can return sooner after experiencing a concussion and when they need to be sidelined for longer periods. Returning too soon may have serious consequences for concussed athletes as they may suffer second-impact syndrome in which swelling or bleeding in the brain can have a fatal outcome.

Head injuries require caution and athletes may need to sit out longer if they have concussion symptoms, Chrisman said.