Lawmakers have introduced legislation in many states that is aimed at protecting young athletes from the damage caused by head trauma. But is all this really necessary when a kid has ‘just had his bell rung’ on the football field?

The fact is, return-to-play guidelines are helping coaches, athletic trainers, parents and teammates prevent students from suffering potentially deadly consequences associated with concussion. Concussion is that serious!

Laws have now been passed in all 50 states and Washington, DC to protect student athletes from the damaging and often devastating effects of head injury. Special concern is being placed on return-to-play guidelines that are designed to avoid second-impact syndrome and its potentially deadly consequences. As an example, California now requires children less than 18 years of age to receive written authorization for return to play after suffering a suspected concussion injury.

Doctors of chiropractic care, often sought for pain management and support in recovery of concussion, are included as qualified health care providers who may provide such authorization in California. Many people associate chiropractors with spinal manipulation and alignment of the body’s musculoskeletal structure for pain relief. Yet chiropractic doctors are also well trained and experienced at recognizing and helping patients recover from post-concussion symptoms that may occur days, weeks or even many months after initial injury.

Among the symptoms chiropractors are trained to recognize, many may be difficult to spot in the day-to-day life of a young athlete, or a child or adult of any age. Low-grade headache, increased fatigue, low frustration tolerance, increased irritability and poor concentration or sleep disturbances are among the subtler or potentially less noticeable effects of concussion.  Yet these may be signs of chronic, degenerative neurologic disease and dysfunction that can affect an individual in very serious ways.

What can happen if concussion occurs and is improperly identified and addressed by a qualified, experienced medical care provider? Traumatic brain injury can cause short or long-term cognitive loss, chronic headaches, learning disabilities, depression, physical disability, early-onset dementia and even death. In fact, repetitive head trauma has been labeled an ‘invisible killer,’ as the damage occurring within the brain may go undetected for many years, or even until death occurs.

Chiropractors and especially those working within the fields of sports medicine or chiropractic neurology are well equipped to help patients heal following a concussion. The focus is on identifying areas of the brain that have been damaged or injured, and then promoting new connections within those areas to improve brain function. Deep investigation into what the patient is experiencing is an essential component of this type of concussion therapy. A wide variety of therapies are then available to the chiropractor to assist the patient through the process of helping the brain (and body) heal itself.

Traumatic brain injury is always a big deal. It can cause a lifetime of discomfort, disease or even death. Recovery from a concussion may take a very long time or may never occur without proper care. This is why it’s essential to take every brain injury or ‘bump on the head’ seriously enough that it’s checked out if there’s even a remote possibility concussion has occurred.