Video Essay Transcript:
Pain and Sweat on the grid-iron. Every year football athletes put their lives on the line when tackling their opponent; but football players are not the only athletes alone in the struggle.
Doctors all over the world are now discovering the impact of concussions on the adolescent brain. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury or TBI, that is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a hit to the body that causes your head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This can cause the brain to bound around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cells in the brain. Falls are the most common cause of concussions, but concussions are also very common in contact sports, such as football and soccer. There around 1.7 million reported concussions per year, and around 20% of those concussions are sports related.
For those unaware, symptoms of a concussion can sometimes be really subtle and may not show immediately in certain individuals, whereas it might show up immediately in others and last for days, weeks or even years. Symptoms include headaches, loss of memory, confusion, ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, and blurry vision. It is incredibly important to have the injured person be evaluated by a doctor to ensure they are informed of their recovery process. An assessment includes evaluating airway, breathing, and circulation, which is then followed by a cervical spine assessment. The cervical spine should be stabilized until all four limbs are evaluated and found to have normal movement and sensation and until there is no pain when an extremity is touched. Recovery is vital for anyone who suffers from a concussion, but especially important for athletes before their return to play.
In August of 2021, a team of neurologists from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto discovered that concussions may be having more extended consequences on the brain even after athletes are back on the field. “We know concussions may have long-term effects on the brain that last beyond getting a doctor’s clearance to return to play. It is unclear, however, to what extent the effects of repeated concussion can be detected among young, otherwise healthy adults. We found even though there was no difference in symptoms or the amount of recovery time, athletes with a history of concussion showed subtle and chronic changes in their brains,” said study author Tom A. Schweizer.
Although some athletes take weeks to recover from their concussion, there are still signs of subtle and chronic changes in the brain. The neurologist team at the hospital conducted a two-part study for one year on 228 athletes with an average age of twenty. Sixty-one athletes had a recent concussion, whereas 167 did not. Within the first group of sixty-one athletes who had recently suffered a concussion, thirty-six had a history of concussions. Within the second group of 167 who had not recently suffered a concussion, seventy-three had a history of concussions. Each athlete who had recently suffered from a concussion received five brain scans from the time they were injured to one year following their return to play. After all of the information was gathered, researchers found that after one year of a recent concussion, athletes with a history of concussions had a sharper decline in the blood flow within one area of the cingulate (part of the brain that is responsible for processing emotions and behavior regulation). Researchers also discovered that in athletes with a history of concussions, need to be watched very closely because with repeat injuries, those subtle brain changes become much worse and can lead to life-threatening effects. The only limitation to this study was the athletes were required to self-report their own history of concussions, and there was no reliability in the information.
Not many other studies have been conducted on concussion in young athletes because it would be ethically incorrect. But various sports medicine programs around the country have released their own personal accounts on the effects. Some of the latest findings include the necessity for awareness of the links between head trauma and CTE. Doctors at the Boston University School of Medicine have performed a short study on how recent impact and trauma history played a role in the untimely death of eight young athletes. Following the BU study, it was discovered that athletes with a history of concussions within the last year, needed nearly three times the median duration of rest compared to athletes who had sustained a concussion longer than a year ago or never had a concussion. A return to play protocol was also more strictly enforced in forced in high schools and other youth athletics. For athletes who are showing no symptoms for 24-48 hours, they must go through a five-step process: no activity, light aerobic exercise, sport-specific exercise, noncontact training drills, full-contact practice, and then finally return to play. And although this may seem as if it is a very extensive process, many families are fighting their state legislature because they feel as if there are not enough rigid return to play laws especially for sports like football and soccer. Some parents are even pushing for less head-to-head contact that occurs when heading the ball in soccer because they believe it will reduce the amount of concussions in the sport. Even though head-to-head contact may not be able to be banned because of its integral role in soccer, there are other techniques coaches can improvise to avoid the contact.
With that being said, it is very important for doctors and researchers to continue to make new discoveries surrounding concussions in young athletes; because it could play a major role in saving someone from suffering from life-long complications.
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