Not Hard-Headed Enough

Graphic courtesy of Medicalnewstoday.com
Graphic courtesy of Medicalnewstoday.com

by Mike Cipolla and Critt Johnson

There are an estimated 1.6- 3.8 million concussions in sports each year, according to BrainLine.org. Concussions are a very serious injury and should not be treated lightly.

A concussion “is a type of traumatic brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head or body, a fall, or another injury that jars or shakes the brain inside the skull,” according to WebMD.

Senior Becca Cornbrooks and sophomore Matt Edwards  have a combined total of 5 concussions.

“It was a bunch of different hits together, and at the very end I got kicked in the head by a 6’5” dude,” said Mr. Edwards who became concussed during a football game several weeks ago.

Of all reported sports concussions, 47 percent are associated with high school football. One in five high school athletes will sustain a sports concussion during the season, according to the website Head Case.

What exactly happens when a concussion occurs?

“Your brain is a soft organ that is surrounded by spinal fluid and protected by your hard skull. Normally, the fluid around your brain acts like a cushion that keeps your brain from banging into your skull. But if your head or your body is hit hard, your brain can crash into your skull and be injured,” according to WebMD.

Concussions can have long term effects, and each new concussion increases the chance of having lasting effects. Such as memory loss, headaches, changed sleeping pattern, and confusion.

We think that in a concussion the brain does have damage to the nerve cells, the axons (which transmit information to different neurons) that is mild enough that it doesn’t show up on CT scans or MRIs,” said Captain Andrew Johnson, a emergency medicine doctor in the U. S Navy.

Ms.Cornbrooks, who has sustained four concussions already, has experienced some long term effects.

“I noticed it’s harder to memorize stuff, like for vocab quizzes.  That’s the only long term effects I’ve had,” said Ms. Cornbrooks.

Increased difficulty in memorizing certain details and facts is not the only prolonged effect of multiple concussions.

“It is also thought that brain trauma is cumulative over time and that multiple concussions can put you at risk for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which can include dementia and depression,” said Dr. Johnson.

The technology used to prevent concussions has increased tremendously in the last 10 years. Companies like Riddell have created football helmets that are both safer and look better. According to www.beam.vt.edu, since 2011 Virginia Tech has used a helmet rating system to make sure they have the most updated safety measures taken. This is a step in the right direction to ensure safety, but more high schools and colleges need to take advantage of the technology.  

There is no medication or one way to get rid of a concussion more quickly, but there are steps you can take to lessen the pain.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following:

  • Get plenty of sleep at night, and rest during the day.
  • Avoid activities that are physically demanding (e.g., heavy housecleaning, weightlifting/working-out) or require a lot of concentration (e.g., balancing your checkbook).
  • Write down the things that may be harder than usual for you to remember.
  • If you’re easily distracted, try to do one thing at a time.
  • Consult with family members or close friends when making important decisions.
  • Do not neglect your basic needs, such as eating well and getting enough rest.
  • Avoid sustained computer use, including computer/video games early in the recovery process

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