MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — From little league to professional sports, concussions have been in the news constantly as of late. Doctors say the head injuries are a serious problem.

The National Football League’s team doctors use a sideline concussion assessment tool to evaluate players suspected of suffering a concussion.

“All the professional sports leagues in the U.S. have really started to recognize the importance of concussions,” Jonathan Finnoff, D.O. and director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center, said. “A concussion occurs when you get a hit either to the head or to the body, and it shakes our brain around. And when that happens, it stretches the nerves, and when you stretch the nerves, some of those nerves are stunned.”

The team medical staff looks for very specific symptoms, anything from losing consciousness to experiencing a simple headache, which is the most common symptom.

Since Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was unconscious this weekend, his injury was taken very seriously.

“It’s not like an ankle sprain, where you can tape it up and put somebody back out there,” Finnoff said. “If you injure your brain, it actually can be life-threatening if you go back out there too soon.”

The NFL has five steps for players recovering from a concussion:

  1. Rest, with no team meetings or electronic devices.
  2. Light aerobic exercise, returning to meetings and viewing film.
  3. Adding weight training to aerobic exercise.
  4. Non-contact football activities, like throwing and catching.
  5. Full football activity, with no restrictions.

The measures they usually use involve looking at balance and the ability to remember things.

“Once everything is back to normal, then they gradually start increasing the amount of activity you do, on a daily basis,” Finnoff said.

A player who has a concussion is three to five times more likely to have another one, Finnoff added.

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