Symptoms and Consequences of Sports-Related Concussions

Scripps doctor stresses the importance of proper evaluation and treatment

Padres catcher Nick Hundley says the free concussion education program offered by Scripps is a valuable community health resource.

Padres catcher Nick Hundley says the free concussion education program offered by Scripps is a valuable community health resource.

Anyone who doubts that baseball is a contact sport will likely reconsider after watching Padres catcher Nick Hundley in action.


“The risk of injuries in baseball is a fact of life, especially behind home plate with all the foul tips and backswings we get,” Hundley says. “And injuries to the head are as serious as they come.”


Padres trainers and team physicians from Scripps Clinic are experts in diagnosing and treating concussion. But with an estimated 300,000 sports-related concussions occurring annually in America – across all sports, ages and competition levels – greater awareness is needed.


“Athletes sometimes dismiss a head injury as simply getting their bell rung and will keep competing,” says Scripps neurologist Dr. Michael Lobatz. “But with head injuries, playing through the pain is a dangerous idea. All athletes with concussion symptoms should be evaluated immediately by a trainer or physician, and shouldn’t resume play until cleared.”


So what exactly is a concussion? It’s an injury resulting from a bump, jolt or blow to the head that temporarily changes the way the brain normally works. It can also be caused by a fall or blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth.


Some of the immediate symptoms of concussions may include headache, slurred speech, irritability and persistent nausea or vomiting, along with difficulty thinking clearly or remembering new information.


With rest, most concussions resolve on their own within a few days or weeks. Activities that involve a lot of concentration or physical exertion may cause a patient’s concussion symptoms to recur or worsen. Such activities should be carefully managed during the healing process.


Sometimes a second concussion may occur before the first one has fully healed. These “second impact” concussions can cause additional trauma to the brain, including brain swelling and widespread damage. They carry a higher risk of long-term cognitive dysfunction and may even be fatal.


The consequences of repetitive concussions may include memory and motor dysfunction and Parkinson’s-like movement disorders, such as balance disturbances, tremors, rigidity and slowed movement.


Scripps has developed a free public education program to raise awareness of the signs, symptoms and consequences of concussions. Since last summer, Scripps has led these programs for nearly a dozen high school athletic departments around San Diego County. To schedule a free concussion presentation for a school or athletic organization, call 760-633-6507.