Knocks on the head are something every kid should expect in competitive sports, right? From an early age we learn to “get tough,” “get back in the game,” or that getting “dinged” is just part of contact sports.
“Not necessarily so,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Nebraska’s Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for the Department of Health and Human Services. “There’s a new awareness that a ding might just be a concussion, which is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way the athlete’s brain normally works. Sometimes a concussion is serious before the athlete, coach or parents even realize it.”
A concussion can have short term and long term consequences, which may include a headache, vomiting or nausea, weakness, dizziness, blurred vision, concentration and memory problems, irritability and even death.
Players who received multiple concussions are more likely to have thinking problems, depression and other brain-related issues, including dementia. Fortunately, ninety percent of athletes who experience a single minor concussion usually recover completely in a few days to several weeks.
During 2010, sports-related concussions accounted for 299 emergency department visits and six hospitalizations among Nebraskans under age 19, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Injury Prevention and Control Program. Other concussions resulted from motor vehicle accidents, falls, and events involving unintentional impact.
According to national findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about one in 10 concussion-related injuries are reported and tracked, making the true scope of the problem extremely difficult to predict.