Concussions have become a major concern for athletes and parents of young people who play sports. More and more we are beginning to understand just how serious these injuries can be. What was once seen as just “getting your bell rung” has now become a major health priority. It is important to understand what concussions are and how they impact the brain in order to best prevent long-term damage in athletes.
The first important fact is that concussions can happen in just about any sport. While many people see concussions as a problem solely in football, in reality athletes in all sports have been susceptible to concussions. Hockey, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, and other contact sports have a great propensity to cause concussions as well. Even baseball players have shown a high incidence of concussions (especially catchers). Therefore it is important for all athletes to be aware of the dangers of concussions.
Another important fact regarding concussions is that serious long term injury generally isn’t caused by the jarring hits but by the accumulation of smaller hits. Researchers at Duke University, for instance, monitored football players’ helmets to register the number of hits they took at practice. What they found was that a player took hundreds of small blows throughout practice that didn’t necessarily result in a concussion but contributed to them. It also may be the reason why brain injuries can linger in some people with concussions while other people get over them without issue.
Understanding this is important because concussions and brain injuries can have serious long term consequences. Someone who has experienced multiple concussions is at greater risk for cognitive impairment, especially CTE. This stands for chronic traumatic encephalopathy and it is perhaps the most serious of all concussion related ailment. It can cause problems with memory, mood, and decision making that can lead to violence, Alzheimer-like forgetfulness, and other problems. It is only by keeping head traumas to a minimum that a person can avoid this serious, life-threatening condition.
A functional neurologist can run a series of tests to test your brain for issues whether you have experienced a concussion or just play a contact sport. Through an MRI, cognition tests, and more, it is possible identify issues early and work to get them corrected. This way, a person can keep their brain healthy as they get older and avoid cognitive impairment.
If you or your child is an athlete and is at risk for concussion, a functional neurologist may be able to help. Whether this athlete has suffered a concussion or just plays a sport that presents concussion risks, it is important to closely monitor their brain health. By thoroughly testing an athlete’s brain health, it is possible to minimize concussion-related problems and keep a person healthy.