A young athlete who has physically recovered from a concussion is not necessarily ready to immediately return to play, warns a new study published by a researcher at the University of Montreal.
The young person may need more time to recover psychologically and to regain his confidence, and a hasty return to the game could have serious consequences for him, specified Professor Jeffrey Caron, of the School of Kinesiology and Sciences of physical activity of the Montreal establishment.
“I imagine that many athletes feel very comfortable returning to sport quickly once they have medical validation,” said Professor Caron, who is himself a former major junior hockey player. and academic.
“But from my point of view, that’s not everyone and we should ask more questions.” Are they really, really ready to put themselves in situations where there are contacts and collisions? »
A more timid game
The researcher and his colleagues interviewed not only concussed athletes, but also coaches, athletic therapists, physical therapists, nurse practitioners and sports medicine physicians who regularly work with these athletes.
This allowed them to identify behavioral, psychological and social factors that should also be taken into account before considering a return to the game. Some participants in the study thus mentioned the gaze of others and social pressure, the loss of motivation, a more timid game to avoid further collisions, loss of confidence in one’s skills and the important role that sport plays in the identity of many athletes.
“Let’s take the example of a situation where the player competes for possession of the ball or the puck with an opponent,” explained Professor Caron. In this situation, the player may be more passive (than usual), and that shows us that he was not ready to return to the game.”
The young athlete, he continues, remembers exactly how he played “before” his concussion, and we can therefore conclude that his new, slightly more timid game is a conscious decision he is making to protect himself.
The media regularly report, for example, cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in former athletes, and the young person may begin to fear robust contact and collisions after a concussion for fear of one day suffering from it, explained Mr. Caron.
His new, more timid way of playing may give the impression to his coaches that he is no longer the player he was, that he can no longer be trusted, and that he may no longer have his place within the team, he emphasizes.
“If we talk about high-level sport, it’s performance that counts,” said the researcher. Then if something harms your performance, unfortunately, you will not have the same position on the team. »
The important thing, he says, is to foster an environment in which the young person feels completely comfortable expressing themselves and openly confiding the hesitations they may feel about their return to the game.
The simple fact of giving the athlete a few more days to recover, without pressure and without judgment, after their physical symptoms have ended can allow them to regain their confidence and even prevent them from being sidelined prematurely.
“Simply because the young person is healed (physically), that does not mean that he is ready to return to the game,” concluded Professor Caron. Being cured of symptoms is one thing; it’s another thing to feel ready to return to sport. »
The findings of this study were published by the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine.