A Sudden Impact: An analysis on concussion in sports

Written by: Connor Marshall

Edited by: Andrew Ramadan and Sean McCarthy

 

There is an injury out there in the world of sports today that cannot be healed by an icepack, or covered up by a brace and bandaids. Fans generally cheer if they see big collisions on television while watching football, but what they do not notice is that some of these hits can cause major concussions. Concussions are no laughing matter; they can suddenly impact the rest of your life. It is estimated that 300,000 sports-related concussions occur each year. More than 60,000 of these concussions come from high school sports. So why should you care about concussions? The main reason is that a concussion can happen to anyone, not just athletes, and they can be lethal. The effects that most people are aware of are the short-term effects; however, the long-term effects are just as important to learn about if not more important.

In this video, Dr. James Moriarty, the head team physician at Notre Dame and a consultant for Axon Sports, introduces his definition of a concussion, and the short term effects of them. Axon Sports is an organization that helps train the athletic brain while protecting it at the same time. There is also a guest appearance from one of the most beloved athletes in the world today, Tim Tebow.

As Dr. Moriarty stated, concussions can be tricky to diagnose because the person receiving the concussion does not always black out when they receive one. It is not always the case where everyone watching can tell if an athlete has suffered a concussion. For one, the athlete can tell if he is feeling unusual after impact, but certified trainers have become increasingly aware of the symptoms and can diagnose concussions on the spot.

Over the past ten years, a lot of knowledge on concussions has been discovered by athletic trainers and other health care professionals, who have brought this knowledge to athletics at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. These trained professionals learn different techniques to detect concussions early on. Trainers are now on the sidelines watching very closely at the body language of each individual player. The players themselves have gone from an attitude of “telling someone about an injury is being a sissy” to an attitude of “I have to go tell a trainer because my health is more important.” It takes the average athlete 7-10 days before they can resume their usual activities. In this video I interview Dr. Connie Lee Peterson, a professor at James Madison University, and she describes the improvements that have been made in diagnosing concussions. As she is talking, there are clips of athletes suffering concussions in multiple sports; there are some ugly looking highlights so viewer’s discretion is advised.

Most people are only aware of the short term effects, such as headaches, amnesia, dizziness, and problems sleeping; however, the long term ones can also possibly occur and can be deadly. The more blows that one receives to the head, the more damage that can be done to the brain. There are two main types of long term effects: degenerative and instantaneous effects. Degenerative injuries involve the brain gradually slowing down and impact the ability to remember simple things such as what you were doing five minutes ago. Instantaneous injuries occur on the spot and can cause permanent brain damage that may affect speech and mobility as well.

Dementia is a degenerative disease that can be associated with concussion. The effects of dementia include gradual memory loss, aggression, behavioral issues, and depression. One example of an athlete with dementia is ex-NFL quarterback Jim McMahon. Jim has problems remembering what he is doing at his current point in life because he received multiple concussions throughout his career. This video has a clip from ESPN’s Outside The Lines and it shows Jim’s present day situation and the daily struggles that he has to deal with.

Jim is just one example of many professional athletes who have had their later lives impacted by the concussions that they receive while playing professionally. Jim’s memory is getting worse and worse as time goes by.

Not all long-term effects involve a progressive loss of abilities. Second Impact Syndrome is arguably one of the most dangerous complications of a concussion because it occurs instantaneously. Writing an article on this disease, medical researchers Tareg Bey and Brian Ostick, suggest that, “Typically, it involves an athlete suffering post-concussive symptoms following a head injury. If, within several weeks, the athlete returns to play and sustains a second head injury, diffuse cerebral swelling, brain herniation, and death can occur” (Bey and Ostick 6). The next clip is from the ESPN documentary E:60 Second Impact and it shows the life of Preston Plevretes before and after a hit that would change the way he lived his life.

Sadly, Preston is not the only athlete in the world that suffers from Second Impact Syndrome. It is important for even minor head injuries to be treated with care and patience because something as severe as the effects from SIS cannot be reversed. Taking time off and resting to let his brain recover could have helped Preston prevent this accident from happening.

More than 2,000 former NFL players are currently suing because they claim that they were not made aware of the dangers of concussions while they were playing. Over the past seven years, a few players, including Junior Seau, have committed suicide in hopes that their brains can be used for future research of the brain. This final video from the Richard French Live Show describes the current state of the NFL and concussions today.

Professional athletes will never change their aggressive style of play, which is why it is so easy to get a concussion while playing sports. Concussions are occurring more often than they used to, or at least we are now becoming more aware of them. Over 300,000 occur each year so they should be treated with caution. Players should wait at least 7-10 days so that they can fully recover from the side effects. For more information on concussions you can visit Axon Sports or Think First online, which are organizations that give more information on concussions. Returning too soon can cause unintended and dangerous results that you would have to deal with for the rest of your life. Missing one game to let your brain heal from a concussion is better than missing a whole season because you let your brain take too much damage.

Websites
Axon Sports
Think First

Works Cited
Avila, Jim, Former NFL Players File Lawsuit Against League on Concussions, 2012
Crees, Alex, Junior Seau’s death again highlights risks of repeated concussions, head injuries, 2012
ESPN, E:60 Second Impact, 2010
ESPN, Jim McMahon (Outside the Lines), 2012
Healthwise, Concussion- Overview, 2012
Leonard, Wendy, Did Jim McMahon’s concussions cause dementia?, 2011
Multiple Sources, Huge Concussion Hits in Football, 2011
Multiple Sources, Joe gets a concussion, 2011
Multiple Sources, Jose Bautista gets hit in the head with pitch, 2011
Multiple Sources, Monta Ellis suffers a concussion, 2011
Multiple Sources, NHL Ugly Hits, 2011
Multiple Sources, Tim Tebow Gets Knocked Out KY Game, 2011
Ostick, Brian and Bey, Tareg, Second Impact Syndrome, 2008
Reed, Kerrie, Concussion Dangers, 2012
The Richard French Live Show, The Impact of Concussions: Former Football Players Sue NFL, 2012
University of Pittsburgh, Sports-Related Concussions: Background and Significance, 2012