Concussion in Sports

Concussion in sports happen every day along with other sports head injuries. In fastpitch softball, these could occur a number of ways; from players running into each other, to being hit in the face by a bad hop or via a pitched ball, or a collision at the plate. Plate collisions and head first slides have been outlawed in softball.



My personal experience with sports related concussions came in my youngest daughter's final season of high school softball. She was pitching and her team was ahead in the game. She singled to get to first, and upon stealing second, the shortstop swiped her under the batting helmet and drove the facemask between her lip and teeth. Bleeding profusely, she continued pitching and they won the game. Except for the three stitches she received after the game, she seemed fine. The next night, she attended a prom and came home complaining of severe headaches. The next day we took her to her doctor, her chiropractor and a sports medicine doctor. The net result was a diagnosis of “post-concussion syndrome” and a season she would not return to play. In addition, she was not permitted to take any tests until finals, almost two months later. Of all the injuries my children have sustained playing sports; this was the scariest because there is no easy way to figure out when your child is well. Broken bones can be x-rayed. Brain injuries have no such easy look.

Players running into each other in the field still occurs. In one district playoff game the right fielder and center fielder collided while chasing down a fly ball. Both called for it, and neither apparently heard the other. The resulting collision caused both players to sustain concussions, while one also suffered a black eye (two days before her prom). As both players laid in the outfield, the second baseman eventually retrieved the ball. (Yes the ball is still live). The team at the plate continued to round the bases and the runs that scored resulted in a win. A sad thing to see all the way around.

© SD Dirk
Dragging is a potent weapon in fastpitch softball


Some of these could have been avoided by softball coaches teaching about calling for the ball, and making it clear who is in charge of what plays. Even with the best coaching, players may get hit will balls or run into each other leading to a concussion and potentially post-concussion syndrome (PCS).

In simple terms, PCS is like shell shock that can last for several months after the initial injury. A player may have regular headaches, mood swings, and struggle with mental focus. Over time therapy can help an injured player, but it certainly would be better to try and avoid concussions in sports as much as possible, as well as having swift and reliable concussion evaluation systems in place.

Basically a concussion in sports occurs from a head impact. During these accidents the brain snaps backward and forward. A player may not even know they’ve actually got a concussion immediately, even if the accident resulted in unconsciousness. For this reason, athletes who incur head injuries need to be checked over several days to see if various symptoms appear. Some of the most common signs of a concussion include dizziness, persistent headache, the inability to focus, nausea, memory problems, confusion, slurred speech, light or noise sensitivity and ringing in the ears. Once diagnosed, a concussion can take as long as a month for the player’s recovery.

© SD Dirk
Completing the doubleplay takes great skill in Fastpitch Softball


One tool being used for testing the extent of a concussion in sports is the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing system (ImPACT). In the 1990s two physicians, Dr. Mark Lovell and Dr. Joseph Maroon, developed a twenty minute test for baseline, impartial concussion testing. It has now become a sports standard used for ascertaining the best type of care for PCS, tracking recovery, and determining when a player is safe to return to begin playing again.

The beauty of ImPact is that a coach, school nurse or even a personal trainer can learn how to perform the basic tests, making this system accessible in all levels of sports from high school to professional teams. The testing process measures various cognitive aspects including memory, focus, reaction times and problem solving. Once the test is completed the results go to a professional neuropsychologist or other appropriate medical professional for review.

© SD Dirk
A good firstbaseman will often times make the difference in the fastpitch game.


Treatments for sports head injuries begin with getting the harmed player out of the game. If there is any visible swelling from the impact, apply ice to that area. Pain relievers can be taken for headaches, and over the counter stomach relief for nausea. The athlete should be monitored for other, more serious symptoms like blurred vision or loss of consciousness. If that occurs, they should receive medical attention immediately.


NOTE: The information provided above, as with everything on Fastpitch-Softball-coaching, is subject to the Disclaimer. This is not intended to be medical advice, and we suggest you consult with your physician prior to altering any course of action.


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