Coaches, sports teams and doctors, are coming forward in record numbers to get the word out that a concussion is not a temporary problem, but could have lasting effects. Even the National Football League (NFL) has started to take concussions of their players seriously by hanging posters in all the league locker rooms warning their players of the long-term effects of head trauma, and making sure that players receive medical treatment after even a minor incident involving head trauma.
Special concern is being focused on the effects of brain trauma from youth sports, and the possible later development of brain-related problems.
Concussion, a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), can be caused by a fall, blow, bump, impact or jolt to the head or body that jostles the head and brain quickly back and forth. In infant and toddlers it could occur from shaking (Shaken Baby Syndrome). In older people a concussion may not usually be termed as â€œlife threatening,â€ but can have serious consequences.
A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests a link between head injuries and conditions of the brain. Doctors now believe that repeated blows to the heads of players in contact sports â€“ like boxers, football and basketballÂ players, can lead to degenerative diseases like Parkinsonâ€™s or Lou Gehrigâ€™s Disease. (most notable: Mohammad Ali)
Statistics from youth sports programs show that traumatic head injuries have risen 70% among both boyâ€™s and girlâ€™s basketball players alone, even as the incidence of other injuries has declined.
Congressional testimony, due to recent attention being drawn to concussions in young athletes, focused on two aspects:
- Â§Â Every contact sport, involving both both boys and girls, has head-related injuries
- Â§Â If not properly treated, can result in poor mental performance
Congress is trying to address the issue with legislation, but budgetary constraints have halted the progress, for now.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) address this issue in more detail, but suffice it to say there is growing concern that a concussion can lead to recurring headaches, memory lapses, and loss of coordination for weeks, and even months after the initial injury. Even more frightening, symptoms may remain latent and not manifest themselves until years later.
More than 1.5 million Americans, young and old, sustain mild concussions (traumatic brain injuries), with no loss of consciousness and no feeling that they need to seek medical attention. Approximately the same number of people lose consciousness from a head injury, but the injury is not thought to be severe enough to require long-term medical care.
Until recently there were few studies that connected minor head injuries with complications later in life. Due to the length of time between the initial injury and the time symptoms begin to manifest, very few have seen the correlation between the injury and other brain-related conditions.
If you, or someone you know, shows any signs or symptoms of a concussion â€“ including head pressure, disorientation, memory lapses, clumsiness or severe headaches following a head blow you should immediately consult a physician. Athletes should not return to action until they are cleared by a physician â€“ and not rely on how they feel, their coaches or their parents.
The CDC website (http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/index.html) has a lot of information about head trauma and concussions, and has instituted a Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports program (http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/youth.html) to provide valuable information on recognizing, response and prevention to coaches, parents and athletes in youth sports.
Practical Memory Institute: http://memoryzine.com/2011/01/15/concussion-in-young-athletes-has-real-cognitive-consequences/ (January 15, 2011)
New England Journal of Medicine: Traumatic Brain Injury â€” Football, Warfare, and Long-Term Effects – http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1007051