+ Symptom List to Help Gauge Head Injuries

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Jane Brody in the N Y Times provides us with The National Athletic Trainers Association Graded Symptom Checklist to help guide doctors, coaches, trainers and every parent whose child plays a contact or collision sport.

The checklist can help determine immediately whether a concussion has occurred, its severity and whether a player is fit to return to the game.

But the checklist is also important to use later, on the recommended schedule below: symptoms of a concussion are sometimes delayed.

A player who sustained a direct or indirect blow to the brain may feel all right initially, then develop symptoms hours or days later.

Athletic trainers, doctors or other medical personnel who suspect that an athlete has suffered a concussion can use the checklist to evaluate a player both at rest and during physical exertion

Coaches and parents can be trained to use it as well.

Professional evaluators, parents and players must understand that a return of symptoms, when a brain-injured athlete is physically or cognitively stressed is a clear sign that the brain has not healed.


Score each symptom on a scale of 0 to 6: 0 is not present, 3 is moderate, and 6 is most severe.  Grade each of these symptoms at

  • 0 hours after injury
  • 2-3 hours after injury
  • 24 hours after injury
  • 48 hours after injury
  • 72 hours after injury

Blurred vison ___  Dizziness___ Drowsiness___ Excess sleep___ Easily distracted___ Fatigue___ Feeling “in a fog”___ Feeling “slowed down”___ Headache___ Inappropriate emotions___ Irritability___ Loss of consciousness___ Loss of orientation___ Memory problems___ Nausea___  Nervousness___ Personality change___ Poor distance or coordination___ Poor concentration___ Ringing in ears___ Sadness___ Seeing stars___ Sensitivity to light___ Sensitivity to noise___ Sleep disturbance___ Vacant stare or glassy eyes___ Vomiting___

Repeat the evaluation until all symptoms have cleared both at rest and when physically stressed.

Says Dr Robert Cantu, co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University,

Any one of these symptoms occurring in the aftermath of a head trauma would disqualify an athlete from participating in the sport.  No athlete should be engaged in physical exertion if any symptom is present.

sole source: Jane Brody’s article in the NY Times on 8/25/09.  www.nytimes.com  Dr Robert C Cantu answers reader’s questions on concussions at www.nytimes.com/consults  

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


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