Sports, Athletes, and Brain Injuries/Concussions II

Part Two of a Two Part Article on Sports Related Traumatic Brain Injuries by Angel Law, P.C..

In Part One, we reported that an estimated 300,000 sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), mostly concussions, are reported in the United States every year. After years of relative silence, this serious problem is now finally getting widespread attention.

In an original study entitled, Concussions Among US High School and Collegiate Athletes, conducted by Ohio State University, an investigation into the source of concussions was undertaken where a nationally representative sample of high school athletes was compared to concussion rates among collegiate athletes. In that study, it was found that one of the most common symptom of a concussion reported by high school athletes was headaches followed by confusion. While the study only observed one school year, 2005-2006, it was found that at least 16% of high school athletes reported suffering a concussion either that season or in a previous season. The article also found that while collegiate concussion rates were higher than that of high school rates, concussions comprised a greater proportion of total injuries sustained by high school athletes. Additionally, it's somewhat alarming that the Ohio study was based on athletes who voluntarily reporting their concussions. One of survey questions asked athletes if they have ever suffered a concussion and not reported it. Many had; only 47.3% of players claimed to have reported their concussion when it happened. One useful conclusion which may help sports administrators going forward was that athletic trainers are a primary means of early diagnose and treatment of concussions whether high school or collegiate athletes.

The CDC has begun a Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports initiative program the intent of which is to better inform the public about the dangers and symptoms of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and concussions. Another helpful resource called the Brain Injury Resource Center provides a great deal of information about prevention and education, including a brain injury checklist, the purpose of which is self-assessment as well as a helpful reference on topics you may want to talk about with your doctor. Concussions are actually very complex physiologic events as opposed to just bruises to the brain. With most common injuries such as broken bones or torn ligaments, damage can be observed with a simple CT or MRI scan. This is often not the case with TBIs and concussions. A concussion is an injury that causes functional problems with or without structural injuries. Sometimes a concussion simply cannot be seen. After a mild jolt or blow to the head, the sudden shifting and movement of the skull may cause the brain to make contact with the hard lining of your skull. This may or may not cause your brain to experience tearing or stretching, which causes damage to your brain cells. When these cells are damaged your brain becomes more vulnerable to further injury and sensitive to any increased stress until it fully recovers. Some of the common symptoms are headaches, nausea or vomiting, emotional instability, difficulty concentrating and or remembering new information, and or trouble falling asleep. It is important to note that loss of consciousness is not required to have a concussion, in fact, less than 10 percent of athletes with concussions are knocked out. Studies have shown that the brain can take up to three weeks before it regains normal function. Unfortunately, studies have also shown that young athletes, especially teenagers, appear to be more prone to a second injury to the brain while it is healing form an initial concussion. This is referred to as Secondary Impact Syndrome.

Within a few days to a few weeks following a concussion an individual becomes vulnerable to additional trauma to the brain if sufficient rest is not taken. This is Secondary Impact Syndrome or SIS. Not only is the individual more vulnerable to more concussions, but the results could be permanent, or even deadly. Again, loss of consciousness is not a requirement for this condition. The impact may seem mild and the symptoms may only include being dazed. However, after a secondary impact the individual may collapse and even die within minutes. There have been at least 17 documented cases of Secondary Impact Syndrome, but it is still far from understood. However, recent studies have shown an association between multiple concussions and reduced cognitive performance, prolonged recovery, and the increased likelihood of subsequent concussions. Once a person suffers a concussion, he or she is as much as four times more likely to sustain a second one.

Concussions can be largely prevented. As elaborated by the CDC, some of the primary prevention strategies include proper protective equipment, proper coaching with an emphasis on safe practices, and good sportsmanship. Importantly, awareness, education and early diagnosis of concussions can help quicken response times and can lead to better, more informed decisions. Athletic competition in the modern era has resulted in more traumatic brain injuries and concussions, at both the high school and college level. We are understanding that the current standards are insufficient for protecting athletes, as coaches and sports program administrators may fail to protect injured athletes by providing adequate attention after a potentially dangerous incident.

In short, we are learning that we need to put more effeort into protecting athletes from neurological injuries. This will, in turn, help avoid personal injury claims when athletes suffer avoidable injuries due to negligence. To learn more, Contact Angel Law, P.C. today.