What Every Player, Parent and Person Needs to Know
West Orange, NJ - The new movie Concussion will likely raise concerns and controversy surrounding traumatic brain injuries, it will certainly raise awareness. While the film focuses on the long-term effects of brain injury among professional football players, the important underlying message is that a concussion can impact anyone at any time, on or off the field.
"It's estimated that between 1.4 and 3.8 million individuals sustain a concussion each year as a result of falls, motor vehicle accidents, acts of violence and sports," said Neil Jasey, M.D., Director of Brain Injury Services, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, in West Orange, N.J. "The actual number is difficult to pinpoint as concussive injuries are highly underreported. For example, studies show that nearly 50% of high school football players do not admit to having an injury. The same holds true for soccer, hockey and most other sports. Why? Because many student-athletes will disregard symptoms, and feel they have to 'tough it out' to remain competitive. However, a concussion is a serious injury that requires careful diagnosis and treatment."
What is a concussion?
By definition, a concussion - or mild traumatic brain injury - is a disruption in brain function caused by a blow to the head or jolt to the body. A concussion may or may not involve a loss of consciousness, but it does present a wide range of symptoms - from headaches and nausea to memory problems, behavioral changes and depression. (See list of Signs & Symptoms.) If untreated, a concussion can lead to significant cognitive, emotional and social challenges at home, school, work or play.
Diagnosing a concussion can be difficult. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans may help rule out a skull fracture or bleeding, but they don't detect the subtle changes in the brain that signal a concussion. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a concussion, getting proper medical attention and participating in a specialized concussion rehabilitation program is key to resuming activities as quickly and safely as possible.
Statistics indicate that in 2012, 12% of all emergency room visits involved a concussion. Sports and recreational activities, including biking, account for more than 25% of all traumatic brain injuries in children between the ages of 5 and 19. Football has the highest concussion rate, followed by wrestling and cheerleading. Studies show that more than 40% of student-athletes return to play too soon, which puts them at greater risk for long-term complications.
Understanding the risks
"Individuals who have sustained a concussion are often impatient to get back to work or play, but it's critical that they take the time to have the injury evaluated, treated and monitored in order to allow the brain to heal," said Jennifer Skrapits, PT, Center Manager, Kessler Rehabilitation Center. "It's also important to understand that no two injuries are alike, nor will people respond in the same way or recover at the same pace."
Early, specialized treatment of a concussion that is tailored to individual needs has been shown to improve recovery and reduce the risk of future injury and long-term challenges. "Once a student-athlete sustains a concussion, they are four-to six times more likely to incur a second brain injury, which can lead to more serious, lifelong impairments."
The impact of repeated brain injury is the main storyline of the movie Concussion. It calls attention to a neurodegenerative disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) that can develop years or even decades after an individual has sustained multiple concussions. It can cause mild to severe challenges with memory, cognition, speech, movement, emotional issues, and violent or inappropriate behaviors. While prevalent among professional football players and boxers, others may be at risk as well.
Treatment and Prevention
Although the best protection against injury is prevention, it is difficult to prevent a brain injury. "No matter how careful we are, slips, trips, falls and hits are going to occur - whether it's around the home, in the car or on the playing field," said Dr. Jasey. "So far, no protective equipment has been proven to prevent concussions. However, helmets can help to reduce the severity of an injury when biking, skating, skiing or snowboarding, and companies are exploring better helmet design and technologies for football, and other hard-hitting sports like lacrosse."
For athletes, having a baseline and post-injury ImPACT® screening is helpful in assessing an injury. And for all individuals, being evaluated by a physician, receiving treatment by physical and occupational therapists and others who specialize in concussion care, and allowing time for the brain to recover can make all the difference in life ahead.
For more information about Concussion, contact Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation at www.kessler-rehab.com or 973.243.6879 or Kessler Rehabilitation Center at www.kessler-pt.com or 866.33.REHAB (73422).
CONCUSSION: Know the Signs & Symptoms
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to noise
- Vision difficulties
- Poor concentration
- Memory problems
- Sleep problems
- Behavioral changes
- Balance difficulties