A recurring worry that crosses the mind of almost every parent of a high school athlete is the possibility of their child having lasting damage from a possible concussion.
The controversy of concussions has reached the forefront in sports, with the increased accounts of professional and nonprofessional athletes having lasting side effects from head injuries that occured in the past and some that were never properly treated.
When taking into consideration the stigma of the affliction, it is important to understand the causes and effects it can have on the human brain, and also to know the proper channels for treatment and safety when attempting to return to action.
Many people know that football is the most popular sport in which a concussion or head injury can occur, but in reality almost every sport including soccer, basketball, wrestling and cheerleading also commonly run the risk of having a concussion according to Dr. Donald Phykitt the Medical Director of Guthrie Sports Medicine Program.
“Most are caused when an athlete falls and hits their head or takes a hit to the head in some other way. It’s important to note however that you don’t have to have an injury in order to have a concussion. Simply falling down can cause vibration to the brain and result in a concussion, without the head even being hit,” Dr. Phykitt said in regards to the different ways one might obtain a concussion.
It is also extremely important for athletes to know how to properly treat a concussion in the event they are diagnosed with one. “It’s important to eat three meals, get lots of fluids, eight hours of sleep, etc. I also advise my patients suffering from a concussion to avoid anything that aggravates their symptoms like TV, phone screens or bright lights. Once an athlete is cleared there is a gradual return to play that takes five to six days where they ease back into the sport before they get back to full contact. It’s also important to remember that the time to heal is different for everyone. If a patient has had concussions before or a prior condition like depression, ADD, anxiety or a history of car sickness it may take them longer to heal.”
Another important factor when looking at high school athletes who have suffered a concussion is knowing what long-term effects might afflict them in the future if they are untreated or if they receive multiple concussions over time. Some side effects would include moodiness, learning problems, chronic headaches and other issues along those lines.
One of the biggest concerns is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy more commonly known as CTE, which is permanent damage to the nerves that cause mood swings, problems concentrating, memory loss and in some cases dementia.
Another issue that can surface is Second Impact Syndrome that can be caused by multiple concussions and is provoked by a second hit after a concussion hasn’t been properly recovered from, and causes extra swelling to the brain and sometimes can even result in death.
In sports there has been a stigma with concussions in which they are downplayed mostly because of it being an injury that can’t be seen or is thought to be not as detrimental to a players health as it really can be.
“This can be very dangerous and lead to sometimes fatal conditions like Second Impact Syndrome. I urge players and coaches to take away the stigma. If you think you or a friend is injured, get checked out. See your primary care provider or go to the emergency room if your symptoms are severe.” Dr. Phykitt commented about the stigma and the importance of actively seeking help if you or someone you know might have a concussion.
Regardless of the situation or sport, all athletes and parents should be aware of the dangers that can surround a head injury if left untreated.
With all of the information available, everyone should know that a concussion may seem like a mild injury, but can be fatal or have lasting effects on an athlete if not properly identified and treated.