Barely three minutes into the game between the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the UE Red Warriors, Will Navarro was escorted to the bench. He was a casualty of a wayward spinning backfist from UE forward Nick Abanto. He did not get up after the hit, and the action had to be halted. He would not return to action, as the Ateneo Blue Eagles won 84-50. After the game, coach Tab explained his decision to not field William back in. He said that the forward took quite a hit, and actually cannot remember what happened. Fearing it was a concussion, Navarro was sent to a medical facility where he would be examined.

Concussions are injuries that happen a lot in sports, but not a lot of people fully understand. What is a concussion? How does it happen? How do you diagnose someone who is suffering from a concussion? What should be done after? These are the things that people usually ask, and what I hope to answer by the end.

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that affects the function of the brain. It is caused by the brain vigorously being rocked inside the skull. While most concussions happen due to a direct hit to the head, it as also possible to get one where the head is not directly hit (like the upper body), but causes the head to whiplash. The effects are usually temporary, but multiple concussions over the course of time may accumulate and do irreversible damage.

The brain is not a solid structure. It is semisolid, comparable to the consistency of gelatin. It does not fully occupy the skull, it is cushioned by the cerebrospinal fluid that serves as a physical barrier between the brain and takes a considerable amount of contact to rock the brain. Sudden acceleration or deceleration of the brain will also have this effect on the brain. Depending on the severity of the hit, the brain may slide against the walls of the skull.

The signs and symptoms of concussion are usually visible, although it is possible that a person may not outwardly manifest it. It is also not limited to loss of consciousness, as concussions may happen even if the person is conscious.

The most common and immediate symptoms of concussion are headache, confusion, and temporary amnesia (loss of memory) surrounding the event. The symptoms are not limited to these however, as a patient may note the following signs and symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • slurred speech

There are also signs and symptoms that are delayed hours to days after a concussion, such as the following:

  • problems with memory and concentration
  • noise and light sensitivity
  • problems with taste and smell
  • disturbances in sleep
  • psychological problems

Traumatic injury to the brain can lead to more serious injuries like bleeding in the brain. This can cause obstruction, and may manifest as prolonged moments of confusion and drowsiness. Depending on the severity of the bleeding, this may occur immediately or at a later time. The worst case scenario is that these may be fatal if not caught early.

Brain injuries must be treated with the utmost importance. A patient suspected of concussion must seek medical attention as soon as possible, up to a few hours post-injury. Imaging studies (CT Scan) is done to rule out other possible injuries. If such injuries arer found, it needs to be treated immediately. If the CT scan findings are essentially normal, the treatment is mainly supportive. Medications for the headache may be given. Rest is prescribed, and that means no physical activity until cleared by the physician.

Supportive care does not end after a patient is discharged. Post traumatic headaches, as well as feelings of spinning and dizziness may occur several days (or even weeks) after a concussion. An athlete will only be cleared once the signs and symptoms subside.

The UAAP and other athletic leagues in the country needs to implement a stringent concussion protocol to protect the health and safety of the athletes. Players have the right to be protected and compensated for injuries that happen within the sport that they play. I hope that this serves as a precedent for a protocol to be in place.