Public Health

The Risk of Concussions in Contact Sports

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Concussions have now been hoisted to the center of attention in contact sports, not only among past athletes but current athletes as well. Each hit in rugby, football, hockey, or boxing adds up over time and leads to medical difficulties athletes will face in the future. The National Institutes of Health has linked concussions to a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). During a concussion, people experience loss of consciousness, dizziness, headaches, or trouble concentrating. People with repeated concussions are at risk of attaining CTE. It is important to be able to recognize a concussion since some symptoms like headaches can be dismissed as a normal occurrence, CDC created a guide to recognizing the signs of a concussion in order to identify one. There have been six NFL players to have committed suicide within the past few years. Junior Seau is the most famous. His suicide was linked to the injuries he endured during his time in the NFL. His family is attempting to sue the National Football League. During the aftermath of these terrible events, questions are being raised regarding the role of concussions and brain injuries in the life of athletes after sports. Dr. Bennet Omalu discovered CTE after performing the autopsy of former football player Mike Webster. In his 40’s Webster suffered from memory problems, depression, and personality changes. The Dr. Omalu set the precedent for concussion research in sports. Rugby is another sport involving 200-350 pound athletes tackling and running at full-speed. Are injuries to be expected? Concussions are simply a part of the game. It is rough and concussions and brain injury comes with the territory. Most athletes wake up with symptoms of bodily pain or soreness that leave concussion symptoms to go unnoticed. Sometimes athletes do not have time to recover before their next game, unlike the 4 million people a year who experience a concussion. A student who plays hockey during their young adult life will take hundreds of hits throughout their academic career not to mention the collegiate level activity, all hits are not concussive but they will add up over time. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control found that kids under 14 from 2005 to 2013 there was a significant increase in children going to the emergency room for traumatic brain injuries. For younger kids, concussion injuries can happen off the field but they will not suffer long term damage because they are not repeated injuries. Fortunately, schools and leagues are starting to recognize how dangerous concussions can be and are taking measures to prevent injury. Concussion assessment and diagnoses have also improved within the last few years.

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