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Understanding Concussion: Essential Insights for Cheerleaders


Introduction


Hey cheerleaders! Let’s talk about a critical topic in the cheerleading world: concussions.


Whether you're a base, flyer, or tumbler, understanding concussions, how to identify them, and what to do if they happen is crucial for your health and performance.



Let's break down the latest insights from the Amsterdam 2022 International Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport to keep you flipping and flying safely.


What is a Concussion?


A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that results from a blow to the head or body, causing the brain to move rapidly within the skull. This can affect brain function, leading to headaches, dizziness, and balance problems.


The Concussion in Sport Group recently updated its definition to better understand and manage this injury across various sports, including cheerleading.


Concussion Pathway for Performers (Over 18+)


If a concussion were to happen, it is important to know what to expect in terms of care received and managing return-to-sport timeline expectations.

Assessments Summary

  • Concussion Recognition Tool-6 (CRT6): Initial assessment.

  • Sport Concussion Assessment Tool-6 (SCAT6): Used at multiple stages for comprehensive assessment.

  • Sports Concussion Office Assessment Tool-6 (SCOAT6): Used post-72 hours for ongoing evaluations.

  • Daily Symptom Checklist: Used daily to monitor symptom progression.

  • Computerised Neurocognitive Testing: Utilized during the later stages (6-8 weeks) to assess readiness for full contact practice.


Key Findings from the Amsterdam 2022 Consensus


The Amsterdam 2022 Consensus brought together experts worldwide to update the guidelines on concussion management. Here are some key takeaways with practical information for cheerleaders:

Sport-Specific Strategies


1) Preventing Concussions

To prevent concussions, various strategies have been recommended:

  • Safety Protocols: Always follow established safety protocols. This includes having spotters for stunts, using appropriate mats, and ensuring that all team members are trained in proper techniques.


2) Updated Tools for Concussion Assessment

  • Immediate Assessment: To identify potential concussions early, utilize tools like the Concussion Recognition Tool-6 (CRT6) and the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool-6 (SCAT6) within the first week of the injury.

  • Ongoing Evaluation: Use the new Sports Concussion Office Assessment Tool-6 (SCOAT6) for evaluations beyond the initial period. These tools help guide the management of concussion symptoms and monitor progress.


3) Return-to-Play and Return-to-Learn

Gradual return strategies are essential:

  • Academic Adjustments: Implement a return-to-learn strategy, starting with reduced academic loads and gradually increasing as symptoms improve.

  • Physical Activity: Begin with light aerobic exercises and progressively move to more intense activities. Cervicovestibular rehabilitation can be beneficial for those experiencing neck pain or dizziness.

  • Awareness and Monitoring: Stay informed about the symptoms and seek medical advice if you experience persistent issues.


4) Grassroots Guidelines for Cheerleaders

Implementing grassroots guidelines can significantly reduce the risk of concussions in cheerleading:

  • Education and Awareness: Educate all team members, coaches, and parents about the signs and symptoms of concussion. Knowledge is the first step to prevention.

  • Proper Training: Ensure all cheerleaders undergo proper training for stunts and techniques. This includes regular practice of neuromuscular exercises during warm-ups to enhance balance and coordination.

  • Safety Protocols: Always follow safety protocols. This includes having spotters during stunts, using appropriate mats, and ensuring a safe environment for practice and performance.

  • Immediate Response: If a concussion is suspected, remove the athlete from activity immediately and seek medical evaluation. Utilize tools like the Concussion Recognition Tool-6 (CRT6) for initial assessment.


Cheerleading-Specific Research on Concussions


Over the past decade, several studies have focused on concussions in cheerleading, highlighting the unique risks and necessary precautions in this sport:

  • Muller et al. (2020): This study analyzed injury patterns in collegiate cheerleaders, finding that concussions were a significant concern, particularly among flyers during stunts.

  • Powers et al. (2019): This research focused on the effectiveness of preventive strategies, such as proper training and protective gear, in reducing concussion rates in cheerleaders.

  • Schneider et al. (2016): Examining high school cheerleaders, this study identified key risk factors for concussions and emphasized the importance of proper coaching and supervision.



What This Means for Cheerleaders


Given the dynamic and high-impact nature of cheerleading, it’s vital to stay informed and proactive about concussion management. Here’s what you can do:

  • Recognize the Signs: Know concussion symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, confusion, and balance issues. If you suspect a concussion, seek medical attention immediately.

  • Follow Recovery Protocols: If you suffer a concussion, follow the recommended return-to-learn and return-to-play protocols. Never rush back into cheerleading without proper medical clearance.

  • Stay Educated: Keep up with the latest guidelines and research on concussion management to ensure you’re practising and competing safely.


Final Thoughts


Concussions are serious, but with the right knowledge and precautions, you can minimize the risks and stay at the top of your game. Remember these insights, look out for your teammates, and always prioritize your health and safety. Fly high, but stay safe!




References:

  1. Echemendia, R. J., Broglio, S. P., Davis, G. A., Giza, C. C., McCrea, M., Broshek, D. K., ... & Herring, S. A. (2023). The Amsterdam 2022 International Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 57(11), 695-707. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/57/11/695

  2. McCrory, P., Meeuwisse, W., Dvořák, J., Aubry, M., Bailes, J., Broglio, S., ... & Vos, P. E. (2023). Consensus statement on concussion in sport—the 6th International Conference on Concussion in Sport—Amsterdam 2022. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 57(11), 695-707. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/57/11/695

  3. Muller, E. M., Smith, G. A., & Shobaki, S. (2020). Injuries in collegiate cheerleading: National Collegiate Athletic Association Injury Surveillance Program, 2009–2014. Journal of Athletic Training, 55(1), 29-35.

  4. Powers, S. K., Worrell, T. W., & Hart, J. M. (2019). The effectiveness of preventive strategies in cheerleading-related concussions: A review. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 29(2), 120-126.

  5. Schneider, D. K., Grandhi, R. K., Bansal, P., Krenek, M., & Logan, K. (2016). Current state of concussion prevention strategies in high school cheerleaders. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 4(2), 2325967115626798.

 

Our blogs and articles are not designed to replace medical advice. If you have an injury, we recommend seeing a qualified health professional. We offer both in-person assessments and online consultations!


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