There has been a lot of attention given to the topic of sports concussions over the last few weeks. Mike Leach, the head football coach at Texas Tech University, was suspended and later fired over his alleged treatment of Adam James, a Tech player who suffered a mild concussion. Adam happens to be the son of ESPN analyst Craig James. Recently, the NFL and Congress have created committees to discuss the treatment of concussions and the link between head injuries in sports and long-term brain damage.
Not Your Normal Sports Injury
I, for one, am glad to hear this. Concussions are a different type of injury and are not as easily detected as other injuries. Unlike a knee injury, a broken arm, or a separated shoulder, there is no apparent physical evidence that anything is wrong with the athlete when they suffer a concussion. With knee injuries or other obvious sports-related injuries, there are crutches, knee braces, slings, or casts that tell doctors, coaches, teammates, trainers, and fans that something serious has happened to the athlete. It is obvious that rehabilitation and time are required for healing to take place and for the athlete to be able to return to competition.
What is a Concussion?
Concussions are, in effect, bruising of the brain. When an athlete suffers helmet-to-helmet contact or hits their head on the field or court, the brain slams against the skull, which can cause bruising. The more serious the concussion, the more serious the resulting swelling and bruising of the brain tissue can be. This swelling and bruising causes memory loss, headaches, poor reaction time, impaired thinking, confusion, slow recall, and other serious symptoms.
Treatment requires literally turning the brain off. Athletes are required to stay out of school and away from television, computers, video games, or other activities that create stress on the damaged brain. IMPACT testing is utilized to identify deficiencies in brain functioning. This test also shows when the athlete’s brain functioning returns to normal levels. Physical activity is monitored, looking for symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and nausea. When the athlete is symptom-free and testing shows a return to normal levels of brain functioning, the treating physician and athletic trainer give the green light to return to competition. [Read more…]