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Concussion Awareness

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that can change the way your brain normally functions. There is usually no physical damage to the brain, such as bruising. Blackout or loss of consciousness may occur at the same time as a concussion, but it is independent of the concussion.

A concussion can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body or any other activity that causes the head to move or rotate rapidly (such as whiplash).

Any change in the athlete’s behaviour, thinking, or physical functioning can be an indication that a concussion has been sustained. A concussion can’t be detected via a CT or MRI scan and some athletes may not experience and/or report symptoms until hours or days after the injury. Most people with a concussion will recover quickly and fully. But for some people, signs and symptoms of concussion can last for days, weeks, or longer.

Symptoms of a concussion can be physical, cognitive and/or emotional. It is important to note that not everyone who sustains a concussion will experience all (or even most) of these symptoms. What this means is that if any of these symptoms are present, a concussion should be suspected and evaluated by a health professional. (Keep in mind that symptoms and signs may be more pronounced later or the next day after the injury.)

Symptoms of a concussion vary depending on the severity of the injury and the person. … The signs of a concussion may include:
  • brief loss of consciousness after the injury.
  • memory problems.
  • confusion.
  • drowsiness or feeling sluggish.
  • dizziness.
  • double vision or blurred vision.
  • headache.
  • nausea or vomiting


When a player shows any signs or symptoms of concussion, they should not be allowed to return to play in the current game or practice. Physical activity increases post concussive symptom severity and prolongs recovery, thus, the most important initial management feature for concussion is rest.

It’s important to be cleared by a doctor, but a concussed athlete still needs to follow the 6-step “Return to Play” protocol:

  1. No activity, only complete rest. Proceed to step two only when symptoms are gone.
  2. Light aerobic exercise such as walking or stationary cycling. Monitor for symptoms and signs. No resistance training or weight lifting.
  3. Sport-specific activities and training (e.g. footwork in fencing). No contact or risk of contact.
  4. Drills without body contact. May add light resistance training at step 3 or 4 and then progress to heavy weights. The time needed to progress from non-contact to contact exercise will vary with the severity of the concussion and player.
  5. Begin drills with potential body contact.
  6. Game play.

There are no time limits for the completion of each step, and each athlete will respond differently. However, at a minimum, each step should take 24-48 hours to complete.

Athletes who have or suspect a concussion should seek medical support immediately and notify the Niagara Swords coaches. It is the position of the Niagara Swords that athletes cannot return to play without being cleared by a medical professional.

For more information and additional resources please check out this page by the Ontario Ministry of Health

The following Blog has been an excellent timely resource for new developments in the field of concussions: The Concussion Blog


Take the Coaching Association of Canada’s free online concussion eLearning module – Making Headway in Sport

† This page is adapted from resources provided by the Coaching Association of Canada

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