What to do for headaches during sports?

Headaches are considered as a common complaint by those who engage in sports. They tend to vary in the level of pain, location and pattern from one individual to another. Even though a headache can be an annoyance, most cases do not need medical attention. To learn the difference between what injuries and circumstances need EMS and which don’t register for a first aid course today.

When to consult a doctor

An individual should seek medical attention if he/she experiences a new headache or there are changes in the pattern, frequency or intensity. If other symptoms are present such as numbness, drowsiness, weight loss, stiff neck or fever, it is best to consult a doctor for proper assessment.

Assessment

Headache-sports

When it comes to a migraine, it is characterized by throbbing, intense or pounding pain that is experienced periodically in the temple, forehead, jaw as well as the ear or around the eye.

During the assessment, the doctor will try to determine the type of headache experienced by the individual. This is done by taking a clinical history of symptoms namely the severity, location and frequency of the headache. Other factors that might be considered include the following:

  • Medications currently taken
  • Factors that eases or aggravates the symptoms
  • Connection with other symptoms such as vomiting or nausea

Types of headaches

It is important to note that headaches have various classifications that you should be familiar with.

Vascular headaches

This type of headache is quite common and might be linked to an increase in the flow of blood to the head, resulting to its distinctive throbbing sensation. There are two main types of vascular headaches – migraine and cluster.

When it comes to a migraine, it is characterized by throbbing, intense or pounding pain that is experienced periodically in the temple, forehead, jaw as well as the ear or around the eye. In some cases, the individual can see flashing lights, stars or other white objects before pain occurs. Others experience nausea, vomiting as well as visual disturbances and speech problems during or after an attack.

Cluster headache occurs in clusters over a span of weeks or months usually at the same time of the day. It is important to note that the pain can be intense that is characterized as a burning sensation that can be debilitating to the individual. The attacks can last from 30-45 minutes.

Cervical headache

These headaches are triggered by the dysfunction in the joints, muscles, nerves or fascia in and around the neck area. The pain radiates to the skull which causes the sensation of a steady, dull ache.

What are the exercise-related headaches?

  • “Footballer’s migraine” or post-traumatic migraine is caused by trauma to the head that might lead to loss of consciousness but resolves in a few hours.
  • “Diver’s headache” or hypercapnia headache is believed to be caused by an increase in the pressure under a certain depth. This will lead to an increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the blood.
  • “Swim goggle headache” or external compression headache is usually caused by the compression of the skull by using a swimming goggle strap. The compression is believed to stimulate the nerve beneath the skin, thus resulting to pain in the head area.
  • “High altitude” headache typically occurs among those who ascend to an altitude of approximately 4000-6000 feet.
  • “Benign exertional” headache is quite common among weight lifter and those who play sports that involve overexertion.
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