There has been a lot of talk about concussions over the last few years. The light was finally cast on the elephant in the room… CONCUSSIONS CAN KILL! What?! Say that again… Isn’t that just sensationalism…? Concussions don’t really kill people… do they? It turns out concussions are not as benign as once thought.
In 2012, a hall of fame football star, Junior Seau, ended his own life. Many high profile athletes with suspected head and neck traumas followed suit in the years to come. It shocked the world and thrust “Concussions” from the dark back hallways to front and center. It turns out that his repetitive concussions and sub-concussions had significantly damaged his brain, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). A Study of CTE from Boston University paints a horrific picture. The brains of 90 of the 94 former NFL players they have examined showed specific markers for brain damage. Many former players are still living with and suffering terribly from debilitating symptoms such as:
-chronic neck and back pain
Does this mean 90% of pro football players will develop brain damage? How likely is it for my high school athlete? The post-mortem finding merely scientifically validated what many had suspected for a long time, concussions could cause brain damage but how was still not clear.
In 2013, I gave my first “Concussion Awareness” talks to well-meaning parent-coaches of pee-wee football and youth soccer.<insert eye roll> The talks were met with a lot of resistance. The pervasive thought of the time was: we’ve all had bumps and bruises and sometimes even seen stars. The fact is, it’s never a problem… till it’s a problem. So, can every bump to the head cause a concussion? Clearly, no but the old school philosophy that many of us grew up with is faulty when it comes to concussions. “Just walk it off, suck it up.” “The kids are small, they can’t hit that hard.” “It’s only a 14 oz. ball.” “They have protective gear and helmets.” The holes in those statements are wide and deep, from undeveloped muscles and lacking proper technique to basic physics of force equals mass times velocity.
The take home: Don’t bubble wrap your kids. The literature states the first concussion typically is not the most dangerous but rather repetitive injury to an already bruised or concussed brain is extremely dangerous. The CDC and most youth sports associations have taken this to heart and have set aside significant resources on prevention for our kids and adults alike. There is current research underway regarding the high correlation of concussions and cervical (neck) spine trauma that can lead to long-term health challenges. The cervical trauma often goes undetected because of the focus on the brain. However, correction of a cervical problem can often be the keystone to restoring health and healing to the body.
There is inherent risk in everything we do from going driving to the grocery store to walking down a flight of stairs. Don’t panic… but If you or someone you care about is exhibiting symptoms from a possible concussion either recent or in the distant past, please don’t hesitate calling to see if there is help available for you.