Concussions are a very hot topic in the news today. From the NFL to Pop Warner football, head injuries or concussions are often discussed. Each week I read a new article discussing the risk of concussions, especially in our youth. Even the President of the United States has been on record stating if he had a son he would restrict him from playing football. He also mandated increased safety in sports for high school or college athletics.
Are concussions more prevalent? Are we seeing more now at a rapid rate? Are we not as safe as in the past? Probably. Concussions are more prevalent today than in the past but the cause is not certain. Are concussions more diagnosed due to better identification and reporting or due to increased rates of head injuries?
With concussions becoming a buzzword as of late, why should we take them seriously?
- Athletes ages 16 to 19 sustain 29% of all sports-related concussions and concussions accounted for 13.2% of all injuries in the sports studied, two-thirds (66.6%) of which occurred during competition and one-third (33.4%) during practice. This is a very high prevalence rate. Obviously, football is the highest sport of concussions, but women’s soccer is second. Concussions will occur in sport; therefore your child is at risk.
- Concussions do not need contact. Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury caused by bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth— causing the brain to bounce around or twist within the skull. This sudden movement of the brain can cause stretching and tearing of brain cells, damaging the cells and creating chemical changes in the brain.
- Will the best football helmet guarantee concussion free participation? Helmet research and design is evolving, but slowly. Concussion research is expensive and helmet insurance is even more expensive. Riddell is working hard to protect the athletes, however, even the most progressive helmet (Riddell Speedflex) is vulnerable to concussion. Wes Welker was wearing this helmet with his last concussion. The problem lies in the design of the brain, as much as the helmet, with concussion manifestation. The brain sits in the hard skull while suspended in a fluid solution. With sudden change of direction or movement, the brain will still move inside the skull and make immediate impact. This will create a concussion regardless of the padding on the outside due to the brain continuing to move after impact.
- The results of six separate research studies in major medical journals have revealed the following: High school athletes are likely to have slower recovery than college-aged or older athletes and are more susceptible to severe neurological deficits should they be injured during recovery. Post concussive symptoms can be quite subtle, and concussions may cause significant or sustained neuropsychological impairments in information-processing speed, problem solving, planning and memory…impairments are worse with multiple concussions. Other complications of post concussion issues are epilepsy, prolonged symptoms: headaches, difficulty concentrating, vertigo/balance issues, or life threatening brain injuries (second impact syndrome). Furthermore, the long-term effects of repeated subtle head impact will be investigated. Reports written about NFL players committing suicide in later years of their lives as a result of depression from repeated head injuries are more common. Junior Seau, Hall of Fame Linebacker for San Diego Chargers, is a well-known football player, and is the latest victim of repeated head injuries. A link between Junior’s depression, repeated head injuries from football, and recent suicide demonstrate correlation.
- How do you manage concussion and keep student-athletes the most safe? Identification is first, and must come from all entities involved: coaches, referees, parents, and athletes. A culture of understanding and expectation on the need for rest with a concussion must me respected. Research continues to show four main factors to concussion management: symptoms checklist, objective balance testing, neurocognitive testing, and graded exercise progression. After all three tests are completed before return to play- the athlete has a 93% assurance they are not concussed. It is important to use all three variables with return to play for the safety of student-athletes.
Overall, concussions are a growing risk and growing concern to schools, coaches, parents, athletes and healthcare practitioners. It is important to understand the risk associated with repeated concussions and work to decrease the occurrence or prevent further trauma. A multidisciplinary approach is essential to check the student-athlete safely and to progress accurately with return to play.
Protect our KIDS!
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