Golden Valley High School

Mind over matter: Concussions in sports

Concussions affect youth athletes in every sports. Every three minutes a child in the U.S. is treated for a sports-related concussion.

Safe Kids analyzed sports-related emergency room injury data for children ages 6 to 19 in 2011 and 2012. The study showed that 12% of all emergency room visits involved a concussion and also that an estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million athletes annually suffer a concussion.

A concussion is a type of brain injury that is caused by a blow to a head or body, a fall or any other injury that shakes the brain violently. There can be cuts or bruises on the head or face or even no visible damage. Also a person does not have to pass out to get a concussion.

Many people will have symptoms of a concussion, for example, forgetting what happened right before the accident. Although there is no specific cure for concussions, many people recover within a few hours or weeks. Sometimes recovery also includes restricting activities such as reducing time in school, sports, video games, TV, or even socializing. This helps prevent headaches and nausea, according to Web MD.

According to Medical News Today, the issues with concussions is that they cause long-term effects to the brain, which can last up to decades. Concussions have caused temporary loss of brain function leading to cognitive, physical and emotional symptoms such as confusion, vomiting, headache, nausea, depression, disturbed sleep, moodiness, and amnesia.

Even if one may think the concussion is gone the brain is still not 100% normal. Research done by Concussion Legacy Foundation discovered most athletes ended up having Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) after repetitive concussions. What happens to the brain with CTE is a protein called tau forms clumps that slowly spread throughout the brain, killing brain cells. Early symptoms of CTE usually appear in a patient’s late 20’s or 30’s.

It affects a patient’s mood and behavior. Some of the common changes seen include impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and paranoia. As the disease progresses into the brain, some patients may experience problems with thinking and memory, also memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, and then going to progressive dementia. Symptoms may be stable for years before worsening.

CTE was first described in 1928 by Dr. Harrison Martland. Every person diagnosed with CTE has one thing in common: a history of repetitive hits to the head. CTE is most often found in contact sport athletes.

Athletes who begin playing contact sports at younger ages are at greater risk for CTE. Athletes with longer careers playing contact sports are at greater risk than athletes with shorter careers. To prevent concussions many sports enforce rules. They enforce the rules of the sport for fair play, safety, and sportsmanship according to the CDC Injury Center.

At Golden Valley High School, Athletic Trainer Chris Rizo identifies a concussion by using the SCAT 3 test. For the SCAT 3 test, you ask varies questions to the player; how they feel, and also do a brain function test where short-term memory is tested. As well as an orientation test. And lastly tests of balance and delay of recalls.

When a player gets hit on the head, Rizo pulls any player from their activity and uses the SCAT 3 test as well contacting parents. He also sets up a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible. He advises players to stop practicing from the activity depending on their symptoms, concussions vary, no concussion is the same.

Rizo talks to the school counselors to advise them that student athlete is recovering from a concussion. To get back in play a player has to go through the return to play protocol which is required by state law. The return to play protocol are steps that helps the athlete return back to their game, from recovering to a full return. And also to return the student athlete has to be doing good in school while recovering.  He also advises player in recovery mode to avoid anything that brings symptoms.