I often say the only good thing about summer ending, is football season beginning. What is it about football that makes it so popular? For me, it is the chance for the impossible to happen. The long pass in the final seconds of the fourth quarter to tie up the game or a picked off pass that ends with the defense putting points on the board. But as much as I love the excitement of the game, I wince when a player takes a hard hit. Everyone always cheers when a player gets up and walks back to the bench on his own, but is he really ok?
A study published in the Journal of Neurotrauma by Harvard University and Boston University found that most likely those players are not ok. Based on a survey of 730 Football Championship Series players, the study found that college football players report having six suspected concussions and 21 so-called "dings" for every diagnosed concussion. Among offensive linemen, the rate of diagnosed concussions to suspected concussions and dings was 32-to-1. They suffered 62 percent more suspected concussions and 52 percent more dings than other positions.
Concussions and sub-concussive impacts in football have been associated with neurologic impairment, and repetitive concussive injury has been linked to diseases including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition that leads to dementia as a result of repetitive brain trauma.
However, if you have a child who plays football, don’t let the study alarm you.
“The study does not mean that just because someone plays football, he will get CTE,” explained neuropsychologist, William R. Wellborn III, Ph.D., director of Carilion’s Concussion Management Program. “It just means that we all have to become more educated and more aware of the symptoms of head injuries and concussions, and make sure that the correct equipment is being used.”
Parents, players, and most importantly, coaches need to be aware of the signs of a concussion.
“A concussion is associated with a variety of symptoms that can occur immediately or hours to days after the injury,” noted Gary R. Simonds, M.D., chief of Carilion Clinic Neurosurgery. “The symptoms are classified as physical, cognitive or emotional.”
Concussion Symptoms Minutes to Hours:
Physical: Headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, trouble with balance
Cognitive: Confusion, feeling sleepy
Emotional: Acting cranky, strangely, or out of sorts
Concussion Symptoms Hours to Days:
Physical: Bothered by noise or light, trouble walking or talking, vision changes
Cognitive: Problems with memory or paying attention
Emotional: Mood or behavior changes, sleep changes
“It is also important to note that for many concussions, people never lose consciousness,” explained Dr. Simonds. “So, a person does not have to ‘black out’ to have suffered a concussion.”
If you think someone has a concussion, seek medical attention immediately, and most of all, do not let that person go back on the field until he has been cleared by a physician.
“Players recovering from a concussion must be allowed to improve at their own pace,” said Dr. Simonds. “For several days or even weeks they may not have the ability to react quickly, protect themselves, think deeply or control their emotions, nor will they be ready for activities that require balance, quick thinking, focus and concentration.”
Carilion Clinic offers a multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of concussions. Learn more about injury prevention.