Concussions have been on the “front burner” for a few years now, yet not everyone has the clear and consistent message about this injury. There continues to be gaps in how the injury is covered by the media, accepted by the leagues and understood by the general sport loving public. Yesterday was arguably the most high-profile week for concussions in American sport as three well-known quarterbacks exited the game with concussion. Due to the attention that will be given, I am deeming this a “teachable moment” for everyone.
Several opportunities have been presented to get the message correct and out there this year; in week 2 and week 5 there were 12 concussions. Last year, week 11 produced 14 and week 14 had 16 concussions yet not nearly the “attention”. Two seasons ago there was the “watershed” moment of NFL concussions not to mention the 15 concussions in week 16. Yet the message continues to be clouded.
Regardless where you stand on the concussion issue (you should be concerned), particularly in the NFL, it would be a good time to get the basic information out there and link up some further information if you choose to look. I will try to lay this out in the most helpful manner; to the point with as much fact as possible (I will notify when its opinion). I will do it bullet point style;
- FROM CDC: of the roughly 3.6M concussions that go the emergency room in the US, over 50% are due to recreational activities/wheeled sports. Estimates have been made that 30-50% of all concussions are undisclosed or unreported.
- Concussions occur in all sports, the exposure and rate is much higher in: American football, rugby, Aussie Rules, men’s lacrosse, ice hockey.
- Current research/theory suggests there may be a cumulative effect of subconcussive hits lowering the threshold for a concussive episode (this is why we see more concussions later in a sports season).
- There are a myriad of terrible myths about concussions, this is a great link to some of those. Probably the most concerning for the parents/general public is that you DO NOT have to be knocked out to have a concussion.
- There is no such thing as “concussion-like” symptoms or a “mild concussion”. All symptoms are concussion symptoms, and every concussion is unique to the individual none of which are mild. After all we are discussing brain injury.
- There is not a true consensus on the definition of concussion, however the simplest way to understand a concussion is: a traumatic event resulting in any disruption of normal brain activity. There is a good discussion as to what is happening at a cellular level HERE.
- The list of signs and symptoms is long but can be found HERE.
- Helmets, mouthguards and ANY equipment cannot prevent concussions, anyone who tell/sells you so is lying and trying to sell you snake oil.
- Unfortunately many MD’s/DO’s who are primary care physicians do not understand or even know enough about concussions to be helpful to an individual, often they can produce more harm.
- And the final piece of information I would like to present to you today:
The actual brain injury of concussion is not the elephant in the room. Preventing concussions is impossible with what we currently know, unless you live in a bubble, so concussions will happen; in sport and in life. The most concerning issue with this epidemic is the mismanagement of the injury. If you treat this injury incorrectly not only will it take longer to recover you can do further damage to the individual.
Accept the fact that concussions are going to occur; know and understand the risks associated with concussions then if and when one occurs handle it correctly.
All of that being said to limit concussions you must limit exposure. This is imperative for the youth in sports.
We will have week 10 numbers later in the week. But remember this is not the most concussions we have seen in a week, just the most QB’s in a single week. Time to spread the word.
Nice work disseminating accurate information with a basis in the literature. I’m currently working on some research regarding baseline testing, with a clinical focus on preventing early RTP. None of it matters, though, if players aren’t taken out of the game when injury occurs. It’s unbelievable Jay Cutler remained on the field, and took a secondary hit, five minutes (game clock time) after he sustained the first blow.
You’re absolutely right we can’t prevent concussion in sport, but we can eliminate those effects (even deaths) which occur secondary to concussion.
Maybe we can’t eliminate concussions, but with education and informed decisions safety should be #1.
Yes, we also need to assess, diagnose, treat head injuries and concussions more aggressively.