If not fully recovered, the risk of a repeat concussion is higher. The risk of a more serious brain injury and prolonged or permanent neurological damage also is higher with concussions that occur before recovery from a prior concussion.
To allow the brain to recover, no one should return to play or vigorous activity if any signs or symptoms of a concussion are still present. It’s very important that an athlete with a suspected concussion not return to play until he or she has had a medical evaluation by a provider with experience and expertise in the evaluation and management of concussions. An individual who sustains a concussion should never return to play on the same day as the injury.
While concussions will continue to occur in sport, particularly in high speed and collision sports, much can be done to lower the number of concussions. There must be an emphasis on good sportsmanship and fair play, along with sporting rules that are structured to decrease the likelihood of hits to the head. There must also be consistent and rigorous implementation of guidelines and best medical practices to reduce the occurrence of repeat concussions. With these changes, sports can continue to be fast and fun and, most importantly, safe. — Aynsley Smith, Ph.D., Sports Medicine Center, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. and David Dodick, M.D., Neurology, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Ariz.