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Sports means contact and maybe concussions

To Your Health

by Dr. Roger Hicks


August means the Nevada County Fair is just around the corner, and on its heels, another school year is about to begin. For student athletes it also means it is time to get a sports physical. The ideal time to get a sports physical is 4-6 weeks before the season starts.

In the medical world, sports physicals are known as a preparticipation physical exam, or PPE. They help determine if it is safe for a student compete in a particular sport and may be the first sign of a health issue that may otherwise go undetected.

There are two main parts: a medical history and a physical exam. A good medical history will let the clinician know about any injuries, surgeries, and medical problems the student may have had or has now, medical problems that run in the family, allergies (including to bee stings, for example) and any medications the student is taking. Answering these questions helps the clinician and will rarely mean the student can’t play. The second part of PPE is the physical exam, which includes a standard overall checkup of height, weight, blood pressure, ears, nose and throat, heart, lungs and abdomen as well as an evaluation of your joints and flexibility. 

You can use an urgent care facility to get a sports physical if you do not have a primary care physician or cannot get in to see one in a timely fashion.

Of course, once your doctor signs off on the physical, it will not keep you from getting hurt. There is a risk of sprains, strains and bruises in any competitive sport, but certain high contact sports – football, soccer, field and ice hockey, rugby and lacrosse, for xample – carry a higher risk of concussion.

Concussions are caused by a blow to the head or the body that is hard enough to cause the brain to be shaken around in the skull. You do not have to be hit in the head or knocked out to have one. Concussions are an injury to the brain and are potentially serious, so should not be ignored. Most concussions cause functional disturbances rather than a structural injury to the brain. This means they can be diagnosed by an in-person exam, but not by CT or MRI scans. Many organized sports, including those at our local schools, now use concussion protocols that start on the field or court and continue on the sidelines. The guidelines require that any player who has sustained a concussion not play anymore that day, and that she or he be cleared by a health care professional before returning to practice or a game.

Some signs that an athlete has suffered a concussion include any loss of consciousness, a blank stare or stunned appearance, confusion, difficulties with memory, speech or answering simple questions. If the athlete complains of headache, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision or just does not feel right, she or he probably has sustained a concussion and should be checked out by a medical professional. Urgent care facilities are a great place to undergo an examination to rule out or verify a concussion right after the injury.

Most athletes recover quickly and fully. Typically, treatment for a mild concussion will mean removal from play, physical and mental rest and an over the counter pain reliever, if needed. A more serious injury needs more immediate attention. If there is any doubt, a visit to an urgent care clinic such as Yubadocs is worth the peace of mind.

There is still plenty of time to play outside this season. Have fun and keep your head down!

A director of the Urgent Care Association of America from 2011 to 2017, Dr. Roger Hicks served as the Association’s treasurer and then secretary. He is a founder and current board member of the Urgent Care Assurance Company, a malpractice company specializing in urgent care. He is the founding President of the California Urgent Care Association. He is also the founding president of the South Yuba River Citizens League and served on SYRCL’s Board of Directors for 30 years.