As the fall sports seasons begin to get into full swing and the long days of practices and exhibitions give way to competitions and league games, we wanted to take a moment to remind you of the serious nature of head injuries. With all the publicity in recent years about the increase in confirmed cases of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and the increase in the number of high profile athletes that have missed competition due to head injuries, we wanted to reach out and encourage you to take any injury to the head very seriously.
No place is this more true than with young athletes and their still developing brains. One of the most serious and potentially fatal injuries an athlete can receive has been dubbed “second impact syndrome.” This is when a previous injury to the brain has not had an adequate time to heal and the athlete receives a second blow, causing swelling of the brain against the skull, resulting in irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system. This condition is life threatening and often results in death.
For all of those that work around athletes or have children that play sports, it is our job to monitor the health of these individuals and educate them on the seriousness of the injury. We have all heard stories about athletes not wanting to miss a league game, miss homecoming, or sit out a match where scouts or college coaches may be present. The truth is, missing one of these contests is small concession when compared to the effects of an additional head injury may have on their future. Athletes are often times shortsighted in their focus on wanting to perform and compete. They are driven and want to have success, but playing before their brain has had a chance to heal can have dire consequences.
We must take an active role in education of the athletes, coaches, and parents. ANY symptom after a blow to the head, neck, or body (examples include but are not limited to: headache, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light/noise, balance issues, difficulty remembering basic information, inability to concentrate or focus, or loss of consciousness) should be a red flag that this athlete should not continue to participate until evaluated by a medical professional trained in concussion management. Part of this education process includes asking athletes to be tenacious about their healthcare and the health and safety of their teammates. Far too often, an athlete will hide their symptoms from the medical staff, but will be open and honest with their friends or family about lingering symptoms. It is the responsibility of these individuals to report these situations to the medical staff in order to avoid a potentially deadly situation. No game is as important as the life of a young athlete.
In closing, we encourage you to watch this video from ESPN. It documents the case of Preston Plevretes and what can happen if an athlete returns to play too soon after an initial head injury. As someone that works with athletes daily and as a parent, this feature speaks volumes. We all know sports can have an effect on the body and injuries do occur, but cases like this call for a concerted effort by all of us to minimize the chance that this happens again.
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