Sports Junkie: Concussions Continue

Whitney Lott ~ Sports Editor

We hear all the time in the sports world about concussions, but do people really understand what they are and how they can affect an athlete? According to the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain.”

Most doctors will say that it is a functional injury. It will affect the way the brain works. Think of a concussion like this: you have two balls, with the smaller one inside of the bigger one. When you throw the ball or toss it up and down, you can feel the smaller ball hitting the outer one.

That impact is what affects the brain. It is important to know the signs of a concussion. Sports Concussion Library reported on their website these symptoms as some of the symptoms of concussions: “Headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, physical signs (e.g. loss of balance and coordination), cognitive deficits (e.g. memory and concentration losses) or emotional changes (e.g. depression and irritability).” Sports Concussion Library went on to state that these symptoms may be delayed or occur immediately after the injury.

Children and youth are the most at risk for getting concussions and getting permanent damage from one. A friend of mine got hurt as a child and got a concussion as a result. It was very easy for him to get one because of how his brain was still forming. One of the main problems with concussions is that most people who get one don’t pass out, and so they believe that they are okay. The best thing to do when you have a concussion is to rest and to try to keep your body still. It is important to make sure that you make those who are around you aware that you have a concussion, so they can keep an eye on your condition.

Concussions are more common than you would expect. My good friend Jasmine Butler, who is a junior at Lynchburg College, said that she has had four concussions. “Two were from basketball. One was from softball, and one was from a car accident,” said Jasmine. During high school, college and professional games, concussions are a constant concern.

Many national sports leagues have taken a stand on the dangers of concussions. The National Basketball Association, NBA, has a concussion policy that states that any player is prohibited from returning to the game before they go through a series of tests. This new policy was implemented starting the 2011-12 season.

AboutSports.com reported that the NBA Concussion Protocol states that “Before the season begins, every NBA player must take a complete neurocognitive exam, the results of which become that player’s baseline score. If that player sustains a head injury during the season or exhibits symptoms often related to a concussion – headaches, nausea, etc. – he must re-take the test and get a score equal to or surpassing his “injury-free” baseline. He must also stay symptom-free during exertion tests – typically, riding a stationary bike or running on a treadmill – before returning to the court.”

For basketball, concussions aren’t a constant problem like they are in the National Football League (NFL) and the National Hockey League (NHL). For the NFL, concussions are a serious problem. CNN reported that in 2013 there were 229 concussions, and in 2014 there were 202. These totals were the combined number of pre-season and regular-season practices and games.

The NFL Policy on Concussions states that “After a concussion has occurred in practice or play, the concussed player must be examined and monitored in the training room on a daily basis or as decided by the medical staff. And they must perform multiple tests to determine if they can be cleared to play.” The problems of concussions in the NFL were highlighted in the movie “Concussion,” which starred Will Smith. This movie shined light on the NFL’s unwillingness to come clean about the severity of concussions.

The NHL concussion protocol was updated in March 2011. The NHL states that “Players suspected of having a concussion will be removed from the game and sent to a quiet place free from distraction so they can be examined by the on-site team physician. The physician will use the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool test to evaluate the player.

Symptoms include loss of consciousness, motor incoordination or balance problems, a blank or vacant look, slow to get up after a hit to the head, disorientation, clutching of the head after a hit or visible facial injury in combination with another symptom.” Previously what would happen is they would take a player to the bench area and evaluate him. A friend of mine named Sam Rennert, who plays hockey, says the most common injury he sees is a concussion.

Concussions are a dangerous injury and they need to continue to be taken seriously. I’ve never had one, but I have seen the damage that a concussion can have on a person.