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Concussions Rattle the NFL

It was a great weekend for sports: NCAA football, tennis, golf, Major League Baseball, and the kick off of the National Football League season.  In the past month, we have seen a few concussion type injuries. Today, start New York Giants tight end, Kevin Boss, Philadelphia Eagles quaterback, Kevin Kolb, and Carolina Panthers Matt Moore were taken out of the game with a concussion injury.  What are these injuries?

ANATOMY

Concussions are injuries to the brain which affect the way the brain functions.  They can be minor or major.  They can affect memory, judgment, balance, speech, personality traits, coordination, and reflexes.

CAUSES

These injuries are usually low energy blows to the head, but can be seen with high energy impacts as well.  In sports, concussions occur most commonly with contact sports such as football.  With the injury, the brain is jolted and bangs into the bone of the skull.  This trauma can cause a disruption in the way the brain works as well as tear some of the blood vessels in the skull.

image from: http://www.conquestchronicles.com/2008/3/2/143317/5830

SYMPTOMS

Signs and symptoms of concussions can be very noticeable or hard to notice.  All concussions do not involve a loss of consciousness, or a “black out” period.  In fact, at times, some people suffer from a concussion and do not even realize it.  These symptoms can last for hours, days, weeks, or even longer.  Usually players will be “dazed” immediately after the blow to the head.  This confusion may be associated with amnesia as well.  Usually players will not remember the injury and blow to the head.

Other symptoms can include a headache, ringing in the ears, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, blurry vision, and fatigue.  Hours to days later, some athletes may suffer from memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and sensitivity to light or noise, sleep issues, irritability, or depression.  There can also be a loss of interest in enjoyable activities, changes in eating patterns, and a loss of balance.  Those who suffer from a concussion increase their risk of a seizure for the first five years after the injury.

Post concussion syndrome is a poorly understood complication of concussions.  These athletes and individuals have symptoms that can last for weeks, months, or years.  There is evidence to show that athletes or individuals who have suffered multiple concussions are at risk of suffering from cumulative neurologic damage, resulting in Alzheimer’s disease.

TREATMENTS

Rest is the number one treatment for a concussion.  This can take time, from hours to weeks.  The brain needs to time to return to its pre-injury function.  A discussion with your doctor is needed to find out when it is safe to return to play a sport.  If an athlete returns too early, he or she is at risk of developing a second concussion or having a permanent brain injury.

WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL CARE

If the family of an athlete believes that the athlete suffered from a concussion, medical attention should be sought immediately.

RETURN TO ACTIVITIES/OUTCOMES

A full neurologic work-up for these players will need to be performed.  Depending on these results, they should be back to play within 1-2 weeks.

A lot of research is being performed, trying to understand the long term issues due to a concussion.  Furthermore, researchers throughout the country are trying to understand the force of impact associated with a concussion and change the design of helmets in football to minimize the risk of a concussion.

Dr. P

 

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All material published through this blog/website is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Readers are encouraged to confirm the information contained herein with other sources. Patients and consumers should review the information carefully with their professional health care provider. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians. Dr. Parekh and Duke University will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages arising from the discussions in this blog.

 

 

Locations

  • N.C. Orthopaedic Clinic
  • Durham Regional Hospital
  • Davis Ambulatory Surgery Center
  • Duke Hospital North
  • Duke Ambulatory Surgery Center

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