Paddling is not a contact sport. Thus head injuries are infrequent. Club policy requires all whitewater participants to wear a purpose designed helmet at all times while in whitewater. Concussion can be thought of as a bruised brain. Clinical signs and symptoms immediately post head trauma may include loss of consciousness, confusion, amnesia, disorientation, vomiting, disequilibrium and sensory dysfunction including visual, olfactory and auditory disturbance.
Longterm sequelae of concussion may include cognitive deficits and poor concentration, dizziness, balance and coordination problems, recurrent headache, emotional lability, mood disturbance, altered sleep pattern and easy fatiguability.
In the event of a head trauma resulting in concussive symptoms, a parent or guardian will be informed and or paramedics will be called based on severity of signs and symptoms.
The club recommends evaluation by a physician prior to return to activity. Assuming medical clearance, a general recommendation is rest including reduced school related activities until symptom free. For youth and adolescents, a minimum of one week of rest is usually required. Once symptom free, the athlete may return to a graduated program of low impact aerobic activity such as stationary bike or elliptical followed by paddling specific light workouts. If symptom free with graduated activity, the athlete can resume full practices and finally competition. If at any point during convalescence, symptoms recur, the athlete must again rest and when well, restart a graduated return to activity. Activity is typically increased in a stepwise fashion, every 24 to 48 hours.
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