Just How Serious Are Concussions?

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Concussions can be deadlyWell, we have all seen the effects of body checks in professional hockey and how this has sidelined many players and ruined the careers of a few more. There have also been many reports of how concussions have caused traumatic degenerative brain disorders in many ex-NFL football players and boxers leading to permanent changes in cognitive function, personality, and premature death.

The same issues and concerns are now being raised in the U.K. where rugby and football are played with no head protection.

“What happens is that when you have a big impact, your skull twists one way but your brain stays in the same place,” said John Hardy, chair of Molecular Biology of Neurological Disease at University College London’s Institute of Neurology.

The post-traumatic, repeated head injuries can cause the types of degenerative brain disorders typically found in diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

“We need to minimize the risks by coming down very heavily on tackles and behaviors that are likely to cause rotational injury to the brain,” concluded Dr. Hardy.

PLUS: The Dangers of Concussions for Adults

There have been repeated cases where football players in the U.K. have been involved in serious collisions with other players and have not left the field—despite the fact that there have been several consensus policies regarding sport and concussions indicating that under no circumstances should any athlete continue to compete after a concussive-type injury.

Dr. W. Stewart, a neuropathologist, has also advised, “People believe you have to be knocked unconscious to have concussion, but there are many other symptoms of concussion too.”

The common list of symptoms includes:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Memory lapses

However, some or all of these may present themselves early or later after the injury.

“The rule should be ‘if in doubt, sit them out’,” said Dr. Stewart. They should also have the five minute concussion assessment commonly used in contact sport today.

When trauma occurs to the head region, the blood vessels inside the brain can become damaged leading to micro-tears in and outside the artery which can result in bleeding, noted Dr. Hardy. The repeated small tears and bleeds are not typically noticed by the injured athlete or by the health professional who examines them until much later when a fair degree of brain damage has already occurred.

Certainly, there are concerns regarding the effects of head contact with a football which is commonplace during a game. Dr. Hardy refers to a small study of female football (soccer) players who suffered a mild form of traumatic brain injury to the frontal lobes of the brain attributed to repeated contact with the ball on the forehead region of the skull.

Here in North America where contact sports like UFC, boxing, and team sports seem to be watched by millions of people, the issue of concussion and traumatic brain injuries are not taken as seriously. Protective head gear is not worn in some professional combative sports and the rules of organized sports do not seem to protect players involved or afford them necessary protection required to avoid these kinds of deliberate injuries.

If you are a competitive athlete, my advice is to make sure there is a concussion policy for your team and sport. Make sure the coaching staff understands this policy and has medical or training staff that know the five-minute concussion assessment. If you do suffer head trauma, see a medical professional immediately for the proper degree of neurological assessment and management.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Kelland, K., “Brain damage concussion fears seep into rugby and soccer,” Yahoo! web site, November 5, 2013; http://ca.news.yahoo.com/brain-damage-concussion-fears-seep-rugby-soccer-151218776–nfl.html, last accessed November 5, 2013.

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