When you think of sports injuries, a torn ACL or rotator cuff may pop into your mind, but it’s the unseen injuries inside your head that are really cause for concern. Until a decade or two ago, concussions were merely thought of as a bump to the head, but evidence continues to mount about the potentially serious and long-term consequences of these types of brain injuries.
At Genesis Regenerative Sports and Aesthetic Medicine, our sports medicine specialists understand all too well how serious concussions can be. Even though many sports have been shelved because of the current COVID-19 crisis, it’s still worth understanding the impact of sports-related head injuries and the steps you should take to protect your children and yourself.
What is a concussion?
Before we dive into the actions you should take if you or your child sustains a sports-related head injury, let’s review what happens to your brain when it encounters trauma.
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that occurs when you bump, jar, or hit your head, although a concussion can also occur if you sustain a serious blow to your body that causes your head to rock back and forth.
Whether the blow is direct or not, anything that causes your brain to bounce or twist inside your skull can lead to chemical changes in your brain and damage to your brain cells, which can affect brain function.
Recognizing a TBI
While there are varying degrees of a concussion, we feel that any blow to your head is serious, especially if you or your child experiences:
- Cognitive issues (loss of memory or focus)
- Sleep issues
- Mood disturbances
These symptoms may come on immediately, or they may take days or weeks to develop.
There are any number of ways that you can sustain a TBI, but in 2012 in the United States, 3.8 million people reported a sports-related head injury, which was twice the number of a decade earlier.
The sports that rise above the rest in terms of risk include:
- Football, which accounts for 60% of concussions in high school athletes
- Ice hockey, with a prevalence rate of 54 per 10,000 exposures
- Girls’ soccer, with a prevalence rate of 33 per 10,000 exposures
- Boys’ and girls’ lacrosse, with a prevalence rate of 31-47 per 10,000 exposures
Again, we provide this list so that you can assess your child’s or your risks, but do note that you can injure your brain playing tennis if the conditions are right.
The importance of care after a concussion
Any time you or your child receives a blow to the head or body, it’s always a good idea to have us check you out. Even if we find only a mild TBI, you need to exercise extreme caution in the future as second and third brain injuries can be very serious and even fatal, especially if the first brain injury hasn’t healed properly.
To put some numbers to this problem, high school students who have a first concussion are 4-6 times more likely to sustain a second brain injury.
By seeking prompt care with us, we can evaluate the TBI and determine the amount of time you or your child should steer clear of anything that might injure your brain further.
By allowing your brain time to heal properly, and proceeding with extreme caution when you take to the playing field again, you can avoid a potentially drastic second or third TBI.
If you’d like to learn more about sports-related head injuries, please contact our office in Westfield, New Jersey, to set up a consultation. Or you can set up an appointment through online booking while you’re here on the website.