Concussions
in Sports

 

Every young athlete has dreams of making it to the
professional leagues one day but at what cost. 
How much abuse do we put our bodies through to reach our goals?  Not just our body but our head no matter what
sport you play.  Concussions are a very
real and scary thing for every athlete, young and old and happy more than we
realize.  Changes have to me made.

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Concussions are
a common form of traumatic brain injury resulting from blunt force trauma to
the head, which may be caused by a fall or by being struck in the head.  Also known as minor head trauma, mild head
injury, or mild traumatic brain in jury, a concussion is associated with a
temporary lapse or loss of brain function and related physical and mental
symptoms.  Any athlete suffering a
concussion should be monitored for sleepiness, head pain, dizziness, confusion,
incoherence, or nausea, which may signify complications such as hemorrhaging or
brain swelling.

Not only is one concussion enough to suffer through,
if the recommended rest of seven to ten days isn’t followed the person could
also suffer what is called the Second Impact Syndrome which is an often-fatal medical condition where a
second concussion occurs before the brain has healed from the first concussion,
causing the brain to swell.  Many
medical and education professionals are unaware of the learning and social
difficulties that can result from a brain injury.  Because acquired brain injury is so often
misdiagnosed, students with brain injuries are thought to be emotionally disturbed/mentally
ill, or to have intellectual and developmental disabilities.  As a result, they are often incorrectly
medicated, and rarely receive the educational assistance and support that they
desperately need.  Post concussion syndrome is also
a major issue, a medical syndrome, also referred to as shell-shock syndrome,
that affects individuals for weeks or months after they experience a concussion
or mild traumatic brain injury.  Symptoms
include headaches, emotional irritability, and unpredictability.   

A graduated return to play protocol has been
established following a concussion.  It
states there are 6 steps that need to be taken which are: 1.  No activity – complete physical and cognitive
rest.  2. Light aerobic activity –
walking, swimming, stationary cycling, mild intensity.  3. Sport specific activity – running or
skating drills.  No head impact
activities.  4. Non-Contact training
drills – progression to more complex training drills.  5. Full contact practice – Normal training
activities following medical clearance. 
6. Return to play – Normal game play. 

In 1979, professional
hockey required players to wear helmets, in 2002 did an equipment manufacturer
for pro football release a helmet designed to reduce or lesson concussion
effects.  As of 2017, padded helmets are
required in professional baseball when batter or catching.  The NHL is widely considered to be the first
professional sports league to adapt a concussion policy, having done so in
1997.  The NFL implemented its first concussion
policy in 2007 and updated it in 2009. 
MLB also implemented its first concussion policy in 2007.  The policy was updated in 2011.  A lawsuit was filed in 2011 against the NFL
on behalf of seven former players due to long -term medical effects they
suffered as a result of concussions sustained while playing; numerous other
lawsuits were filed, ultimately representing more than 4,500 former
players.  The lawsuits were settled in
2013 for $765 million, a sum that has been criticized as insufficient to cover
the more than twenty thousand former players affected by the ruling while representing
only a fraction of the NFL’s annual profits. 
It was in 2015 that the NHL helped fund a British study on concussions
in sports.  For many, concussions in pro
sports is a crises, and while football, namely the NFL, has attracted more
headlines due to the physical nature of the sport and its perceived brutality,
head injuries and their long term effects are issues that span all professional
and youth leagues.

 A former NFL player Andre Waters
who died of a self-inflicted gunshot at the age of forty-four, had an autopsy
revealing a brain like that of an 85-year-old which brought the need for a
culture change in sports definitively materialize.

Boxing is
another sport where concussions are very common.  Medical guidelines state that boxers who
experience a knockout (KO) or technical knockout (TKO) due to a blow to the
head are given a 30-day medical suspension. 
Two KOs due to head blows within six months result in a 180-day
suspension.  Our heads need
to be protected.

Protection for our heads can only protect us for so
long.  They are limited in the ability to
prevent concussions unless something else is done.  The solution involves modifying behaviour
more than applying technology.  The more
padding someone has on the harder they feel they can hit and because they are
protected.  It also necessitates an understanding of how brain injury
differs from the cracking if an egg dropped on the floor, and how helmets
influence the behaviour of those who wear them. 

Researchers have
not been able to identify a single factor that determines the threshold for
concussion – the kind of information that would make it possible to modify
behaviours and design helmets to keep that factor in a safe range.  Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward
appeared on a radio show and said “If you want to prevent concussions, take the
helmet off: Play old-school football with no leather helmets, no facemask.  When you put a helmet on you’re going to use
it as a weapon.”  Ward’s suggestion that
the danger of concussion derives from risky behaviour that is encouraged by
helmet use is an expression of the Peltzman Effect.

Concussions are primarily
a head injury, the initial concern following an extreme acceleration to the
head is a potentially catastrophic cervical spine injury. (1,2) In a finite
element element model developed by Viano et al. (2007) it was found that after impact
there is a rapid displacement of the head resulting in neck deformation and a
build up of forces and moments that are transferred from the head to the
torso.  This has prompted the hypothesis
that perhaps increased neck strength may decrease the risk of concussion; being
aware of an impending hit in advance with enough time to contract cervical
stabilizer muscles may be a potential preventative strategy for concussions.

 

 

 

What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion? what
should you be looking out for? They have slurred speech, repeated vomiting
or nausea, they cannot recognize people or places, they get more and more
confused, restless, or agitated, unusual behaviour, obvious distress when
breathing, changes in moods and eating habits just to name a few.  As stated above concussions are no laughing
matter.  They can last for seven to ten days
or even months to years.   The long-term effects
are becoming more known to the medical field, so the preventative measures should
be put into place right from the start at the young ages to the oldest
athlete.  It is never to late to start.

If you want to make the professional leagues than take
really good care of your body, especially your head.  Do not use the helmet as a weapon, follow the
stages for back to play after suffering a concussion, and be the leader in the
changes needed to prevent concussions in sports.