Athletes who experience a head injury need to be aware of the potential for second impact syndrome. This has been in the news in recent years with regard to football players who have one injury; return to the sport before the brain has healed and experience a second blow that results in serious consequences including the loss of their life. Coaches may not be aware that the athlete has had a recent injury so it is up to the athlete and parents to use caution when returning to athletics after even a minor head injury. The following is the protocol that the Winter Park Ski Patrol uses to inform guests about the possible consequences of multiple head injuries. Please review it and seek medical assistance if uncertain.
Second Impact Syndrome (SIS)
Be aware that head injuries can be cumulative. Even a minor head injury (like "seeing stars") that sustains a second brain injury before healing can cause life threatening injuries.
To reduce the risk of Second Impact Syndrome, even athletes who have sustained mild head injuries should refrain from any risky activity (sports including skiing, biking and P.E.) for two weeks minimum after symptoms have subsided or until evaluated by a Health Care Provider. Time is needed for unseen injuries to heal. A helmet may help but may not prevent SIS and no helmet can protect the wearer against all potential head injuries or prevent injury to the wearer's face, neck or spinal cord.
Head injuries can include several types of symptoms. A person may experience a headache and nausea or feel dizzy right after hitting their head. It the symptoms do not diminish or are not relieved by Tylenol (do not take aspirin products) a physician should be seen.
More serious symptoms where a physician should be seen include ringing in the ears, neck pain, feeling anxious, upset, irritable, depressed, drowsy, confused, tired, repeating themselves, or if there are problems concentrating, remembering things, putting thoughts together or doing more than one thing at a time.
It is better to err on the side of caution when dealing with a head injury. Take the time to properly assess the symptoms and be patient returning to sports.