Health Column

by Sifu (Dr.) Rikin Patel MD

We don’t often think of concussions much in our routine kung fu training. However, since no activity is risk free I will review some concussion basics to help increase awareness, targeting the under 20 population where my personal experience lies as a pediatrician.

A concussion results from a force to the head (neck or face), that changes the physiology of the brain. This causes rapid onset of short-lived impairment of brain function. A concussion is NOT a structural brain injury (ie. Bleeding) which is why an MRI or CT scan is not helpful at all in detecting them.

A concussion can have any or all four categories of symptoms, which include:

  1. Physical: headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, visual disturbances, light or sound sensitivity
  2. Behaviour Changes: irritability, mood swings, sadness and anxiety
  3. Cognitive Impairment: slowed reaction time, difficulty concentrating or recalling, confusion and feeling “foggy” or “dazed”
  4. Sleep Disturbance: drowsiness, difficulty falling asleep, sleeping more or less than usual

Remember that someone does not have to be knocked out or passed out to have a concussion and in fact the majority don’t.

Excellent Concussion Resources:

  1. Parachute:
  2. Caring For Kids:

In our training when could this type of injury happen? Most obvious is sparring. However, instructors and leadership team members should also consider the following scenarios: accidental force to neck, jaw or face in self defense, break falling of any type and rolling (ie. shoulder rolls). For the latter this is why good technique is so important and completely safe when done properly.

What can you do immediately if you suspect a concussion?

  1. Have them stop their activity immediately.
  2. Do not leave them alone.
  3. Make sure they see a doctor as soon as possible that day.

Now the challenging part. Concussions are treated with REST, which means both physical and cognitive rest. Physical rest means no participation in sports, phys ed classes, exercise or recreational activities. Cognitive rest involves limiting activities that require mental exertion, including reading, texting, watching television, computer work, electronic games (‘screen time’) and school. This process is not easy and can be quite boring for adolescents.

To come back to kung fu a student must have resumed school and been cleared by a doctor. Please refer to the resources above to see the graduated “return to learn and play” protocols that follow a step wise approach. Remember that any student wanting to return to school is entitled to ask for accommodations from their school (ie. frequent breaks, decreased workload and shortened days). Fortunately, in most older children and teens symptoms resolve in 7-10 days.

At WKFA we have good reasons not to have to worry about this type of injury. This is a result of the deliberate prevention strategies taken and respectful culture built by our founder Sigung Bob that have been nurtured for the last 30 plus years. Let us all continue to challenge each other in a safe and respectful environment.