Growing I loved playing sports. Believe it or not-one of my favorite games to play was basketball. Despite my obvious lack of height for the game I somehow made the varsity basketball team in high school. I remember during one of the last games of my career I was fouled hard as I was jumping in the air. I lost my balance and landed unprotected on my right cheekbone. I got up okay and tried to play but they took me to the hospital when I started to lose my balance and couldn’t remember the events of that afternoon or that I had just fallen. I was told I had suffered a concussion from the fall and I was not allowed to play for two weeks.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in sports is very common. In fact it is estimated that 300,000 TBI of mild or sever form occur each year, and most can be classified as concussions. One of the scary facts about concussions is that after receiving one concussion the risk of getting another greatly increases and the force needed to cause a concussion greatly decreases.
Concussions are a hot topic today in sports and especially in football. Imagine men who weigh 250 lbs (~125 kgs), squat 800 lbs (400kgs), bench press 400 lb. (200 kgs) running into each other head first. Some estimate that collisions of football players can be equivalent to a head on collisions of two cars.
Today, more and more veterans of the sport of football are coming and openly criticizing the sport for not protecting the players. Many athletes who have retired, who during their time were consistently getting concussions are now feeling the repercussions their actions. Many players choose to be “tough” and do not tell their coaches and trainers they had received a concusssion during the game. It is estimated that at least 3 concussion go unreported during each professional game.
Today’s presenter were good enough to tell us that the initial TBI may not even be the worst part of a brain injury. To summarize, Repeated mild brain injuries occurring over an extended period (i.e., months or years can result in cumulative neurologic and cognitive deficits, but repeated mild brain injuries occurring within a short period (i.e., hours, days, weeks) can be catastrophic or fatal. The latter phenomenon, termed “second impact syndrome” has been reported more frequently since it was first characterized in 1984. This New Yorker article is a good little read for those interested in the after effects of TBI in football players. The story interviews a retired professional football player and describes symptoms such as nausea, frequent angry bouts, vertigo, loose of memory and much much more. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/19/091019fa_fact_gladwell
On the positive side the result of outspoken football players is that the league is studying ways to stop the numerous concussions and soaring rates of TBIs. However, football games will continue the way they are now until the solution is found…hmm…for now a football player can only say, “oops, I did it again.”