Concussions present greater threat to athletes

Above is a scan of a brain before and after a concussion. The red shows electrical activity.
Above is a scan of a brain before and after a concussion. The red shows electrical activity.

Because knowledge of concussions has changed, there is  but one single definition. It is very simple: if concussive symptoms are evident, then it is classified as a concussion.

Cooked pasta noodles in a glass of water acts in the same manner as your brain. If you shake the glass, you will notice that the noodles slosh. During a hard blow to the head, the brain can smash into the skull, causing damage to the brain. Different parts of the brain have different functions and control different parts in your body. Because of this, a concussion will affect the part of your body that the damaged portion of the brain controlled which is why most concussions cause varying long term effects.

”In a sense, the more concussions you have, the possible greater negative affect on your IQ,” said Susan Ennis, Sports Medicine teacher and athletic trainer for Leesville.

The effects are classified in two different ways, long term and short term. Due to the wide range of effects, there is not an exact diagnosis for a concussion but common symptoms that are easily be identified.

“As soon as someone has been hit very hard or is showing concussive symptoms, I send them to an athletic trainer,” said Russ Frazier, varsity basketball and assistant football coach.

Short term symptoms of a concussion include the following: headaches, dizziness, confusion, forgetfulness, nausea, etc. The patient often shows unusual “out of it” behavior, being unresponsive, or acting abnormal. Long term effects can include lower brain power, nerve damage and permanent brain damage that can weaken the brain’s performance.

“Current research has lead us to more of an understanding that permanent brain injury in professional contact sports is a result of repetitive concussions, “ said Ennis

Thankfully, over many years, awareness of concussions has risen providing more attention. One way schools have stepped up is by having all sports players take a baseline test before the start of the season. It is a test that identifies simple intelligence.

A player’s score on the first test acts as a control or an example of his/her skill level while under normal brain functioning ability. If a player is showing symptoms of a concussion, he/she will be required to take the test again. If the player scores considerably lower than he/she did on the original test, then he/she will be required to see a doctor who will decide the severity of the concussion and the ability to resume playing.

“I personally enjoy football.  I enjoy working with it. This year I have had cheerleaders, football players, soccer players, cross country runners, and even a tennis player with a concussion, so it’s not just the primary contact sports that are dangerous. The bottom line is that safety is a factor. You need the proper equipment and techniques. It is also very important for the player to report when they are hurt,” said Ennis.

Unfortunately, the only treatment for a concussion is healing time. On top of that, everyone’s recovery time is different adding to the unavoidable fear of not completely understanding your condition.

Despite the obvious dangers and risks involved in contact sports, the thrill of cheering on your team will never diminish which brings up a very important question. Is the thrill and excitement of contact sports worth the risk of serious physical and mental injury?

“Football is a contact sport that requires hitting, so incidents will happen, but it helps to teach the proper techniques and play by the rules.” said Frazier.


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