The Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic at Rush provides athletes of all ages and all levels of play from little league to professional athletes with the latest technology in the evaluation and treatment for sports-related concussion to allow for a safe to return to sports.

The medical team of the Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic at Rush consists of sports medicine physicians, neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, as well as physical, occupational and behavioral therapists who are experienced in concussion. Every patient will receive a comprehensive evaluation, including a medical exam, neurocognitive testing and, if indicated, neuropsychological testing.

How do athletes get concussions?

When an athlete sustains a blow to the head or hits something very hard, the brain can shift and hit the inside of the skull. A sudden movement or jarring of the brain can temporarily change how the brain's neurotransmitters work and may cause actual damage to the part of the nerve cells called axons. This process is called a concussion.

Luckily, most concussions resolve within 1 to 2 weeks, although recovery typically takes longer in children and teens, as compared to adults. But, even concussions that seem to last only a short time can be very serious. Most of the time, after a mild concussion, an athlete can return to normal functioning after he or she is cleared by a qualified physician.

If a player has concussion symptoms, he or she should seek medical treatment immediately. If the brain is seriously injured, it is possible he or she could have long-lasting problems with movement, learning, or speaking. Most athletes recover from even a severe concussion, but recuperation may take up to a few weeks or longer. However, if left undiagnosed and untreated, a concussion may place an athlete at risk of developing second impact syndrome — a potentially fatal injury that occurs when an athlete sustains a second head injury before a previous head injury has completely healed. Another short-term consequence of concussion is post-concussive syndrome (PCS). In PCS, symptoms such as depression, chronic headaches, sleep and balance disturbances and memory/cognitive changes, can linger on for months, affecting school, work and personal life.

What athletes are more prone to concussions?

Concussions can happen while participating in any sport or activity where the athlete can potentially suffer contact to the head. The highest incidence is seen in contact sports such as football, basketball, boxing, hockey, soccer, lacrosse, skiing or snowboarding. Recently, football has been receiving the most attention with regards to concussion.

A study from the National Center for Injury Prevention reports that 47% of high school football players say they suffer a concussion each season, with 35% of those reporting multiple concussions in a season. But, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, about 85% of sports-related concussions go undiagnosed. The primary reasons athletes do not report concussion symptoms to a coach, athletic trainer or physician, are: fear of removal from sport, lack of understanding of the seriousness of concussions and little awareness of the symptoms of a concussion. By educating athletes, parents and coaches on concussion, we hope to eliminate the last two reasons for not reporting concussion symptoms.

The recent self-inflicted deaths of several NFL players has raised questions about the damage football players' brains may sustain as a result of repeated tackles over prolonged periods of time.

An evolving body of research has linked athletes' repeated concussions to long-term brain damage, known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that mimics dementia. CTE symptoms have been reported in a number of former NFL players, many of whom are much younger than the typical Alzheimer's patient.

For more information on concussions, links to videos and media, as well as tools for parents, athletes and coaches, please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website 

For additional information about the Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic at Rush, please call 877 MD BONES (877.632.6637).