Each year, approximately 1. 6 to 3. 8 billion Americans receive concussions from sports and recreational activities. Many of the people suffering from concussions are involved in competitive sports, especially high school sport teams (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention). While participating in a high school sport is normal, the players would not want to miss a game if they did not have to, and many of the players assume that if they go to the athletic trainer as soon as the game is over that the injury cannot get worse throughout the course of the game.
This is a common trend among athletes especially high school and college athletes because their lives revolve around the sport and their teammates. Increasing the chances of getting another concussion, the first concussion normally goes unnoticed or unattended to because the athlete does not want coach to pull them out of the game. These untreated concussions may cause brain damage that can be detrimental to the person later in their life. Leaving head injuries untreated affects the patient’s health for the rest of their life.
Sometimes there is no recovery for the patient after their first concussion if the injury is severe enough. Therefore, it is crucial for major sport leagues to maintain a higher standard of treatment for head injuries, so the athletes will live longer and healthier lives with less neurological and behavioral problems. Concussions are brain injuries that affect the normal functions of the brain such as memory, balance, concentration, judgement, and coordination (Seiller). Caused by direct and sudden hits to the head, people can obtain concussions while playing sports or car accidents.
After the first concussion, the chances of getting another increases significantly. Doctors complete minor exams to test the injured athlete’s abilities and compare the patient’s history to their reactions in the exam after the injury. Rest after the injury is key to the athlete’s healing process, so the concussion can heal and not advance. After getting a concussion, the athlete may experience changes in their everyday activities because the injury affects their capabilities such as memory and balance.
These symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years depending on the severity of the concussion, and the injured person’s care for the iniury. Waiting to return to sport activities helps the athletes to return to their normal functioning which will help them in the future because they will not receive another head injury directly after their most recent one. The best way to heal is to take the required time off of the sport and rest to help the brain recover from the head trauma it has experienced (Smoots).
Pathophysiology and neurologic recovery studies have refined the guidelines for the return of players to the game. To help prevent a second, more dangerous, concussion many organizations have endorsed the strict guidelines, and provided health evaluations and care for the injured youth athletes (Genuardi). In football, many of the teams require certain protective gear that will help keep the body safe when it is taking direct hits one after the other. Major sport teams have changed their rules and guidelines on how to hit other players and the fouls in the game.
Game techniques change to better the outcome of hits and to avoid injuries on the field. Tackling with your head down is not allowed in football because it can cause major spinal injuries to the person tackling which can lead to paralysis. Sport teams change the regulations to help prevent these major injuries, but these teams need to focus on the threat of concussions and the long term damage from these head injuries. Treating concussions is a difficult process because there is not a set guideline for the amount of time it takes for the head trauma to heal.
Most doctors recommend long periods of rest before returning to the sport, but their recommendations often go unfollowed because the players want to return to the game as soon as they feel they are ready (Genuardi). This is where the major sport leagues need to come in and make their players listen to the doctors. Sometimes this may be difficult if the player is the star, but the sport leagues and coaches need to focus on the safety of their players rather than worrying about how it affects their next game.
Most athletes who sustained concussions during their career did not realize the damage it caused them until it was too late. In 2003 during a wrestling match, Chris Nowinski received an unexpected blow to the head which caused him to blackout. After he he woke, he could not remember where he was or what he was doing and he got a migraine, but that did not prevent him from continuing in the match. He began to lie about the pain, but after a few weeks, he took some time off and visited a neurologist. After he got bored being at home, he lied to his coaches to begin practicing again which was very detrimental to his health.
The night before a match he was sleepwalking, and when he woke up, he discovered he discovered he had jumped headfirst into the wall and through a nightstand. Nowinski experienced five years of nonstop headaches and three and a half years of sleepwalking. Chris could have prevented this from happening if he had listened to his doctor and rested, but his inability to take time off worsened his injury and affected him for many years. He used his injury to help pursue a career that would benefit others who suffered from concussions.
That is when he started the Sport Legacy Institute to research head injuries (Nowinski). Some people believe that taking a harder stance against the treatment of concussions will make the athletes more prone to lie to coaches about their well being. This could be true, but if sport leagues take a stronger stance then coaches and staff will notice differences in the athlete’s play and skills. Having this will help prevent concussions, and it could protect players from injuring themselves further and causing damage that is untreatable. Chris Nowinski says this about athletes and injuries: “Yeah, you play through.
It’s a contest to see what kind of injuries you can play through in a lot of ways. You know, the only thing guys didn’t mess with was their neck, but everything else was fair game. ” Athletes that are passionate about their sport cannot imagine life without it, so they are reluctant to tell their coach of their injury, especially head injuries, because they fear their coach will bench them, and they want to help their team finish the game or match. The young athlete might not understand these risks, but this is where the coaches and parents should come in to instill in their mind that this is a serious matter.
Professional sport teams now use higher quality equipment that help with protection from concussions. Many helmets have different paddings that help cushion direct hits to the head. Even though these helmets are very beneficial, many younger athletes do not use them because they are more expensive, and parents are not willing to spend lots of money on a helmet that a child is going to grow out of in a few years. Children wearing helmets with more padding are less likely to receive a concussion compared to a child wearing a helmet with less padding.
This is where sport teams and coaches should come together to help encourage the parents of athletes to spend more money on this higher end equipment even though it does not prevent the concussion, it helps to shield the brain from major head trauma (Genuardi). Parents should also consider the safety of their child before they put the child in the sport or encourage them to continue when they should not. Having a parent who keeps their child from playing may seem terrible, but they want what is best for their child, and the parents should play a substantial role in the child’s return to the game.
Sport teams, coaches, and parents of athletes need to take a stronger stance against the early return of players after obtaining a head injury to avoid further damage that could harmful to the player later in their life. After acquiring concussions, rest is the best form of recovery because it helps the brain settle and heal from the direct trauma it experienced. The guidelines for the time limit before returning to play have been revised and updated to fit the individual player’s injury. Neurologists decide the length of the recovery time based on the severity of the injury, so the time limit differs between each individual concussion.
Many sport teams and coaches focus on the fact that they may be losing a star player rather than worrying about the wellbeing of their player. This places stress on the athlete to heal faster, and the athlete is then more compelled to return to the sport even if they are not ready. Although some argue that stricter regulations will lead to more athletes claiming they are ready to return when they are not, the coaches will have a closer watch on the injured athlete which will make it more difficult for the athlete to lie about their injury if the coach notices changes in the athlete’s playing.
Higher quality equipment, especially helmets, helps protect the head when it is directly hit during a game or practice, and it could decrease the severity of the injury compared to a direct hit of unprotected heads. Placing stricter regulations on the treatment of concussions may seem unnecessary to some people, but these regulations will help athletes in the future because they will not have as severe symptoms as some people in the past have experienced. These can help enhance the lives of athletes long term and keep their brains healthy later in life.