Transcript - Athletic Concussions

All sports carry the potential for injury. Whether it’s football, hockey, soccer, or other contact sports, the risk of concussion may be the greatest injury risk of all. Two recent groundbreaking settlements with the NFL and NCAA highlight the risk of serious injury and death due to concussions. The NFL settlement includes monetary awards for the diagnosis of ALS, Alzheimers Disease, Parkinsons Disease, and certain cases of encephalopathy. Both settlements include baseline medical exams, educational programs and initiatives related to football safety. These settlements highlight the need for parents of young athletes to be aware of the diagnosis, treatment, and management of concussions before they lead to permanent injuries.

While professional and collegiate sports are finally taking action to address the severity of concussions, it seems little is being done for young student athletes, who are diagnosed with hundreds of thousands of concussions each year. In the students’ developing brains, a concussion is an injury that may lead to chronic difficulties in the everyday activities of learning, remembering, concentrating, and problem solving.

We spoke to Dr. Jeffrey Mjaanes, the Medical Director of the Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic at Rush Hospital, to get a clear understanding of exactly what a concussion is.

“A concussion is basically a shaking of the brain. In fact the word concuss comes from the Latin "Concuteri" which means to shake violently. So when we talk about a concussion, what we are really talking about is that the skull is traveling at a speed, that skull suddenly stops because maybe you've contacted an opponent or goal post or the ground or whatever the case may be. The brain inside the skull is still traveling however at that same speed and so the brain basically will jostle back and forth and that is what technically causes a concussion. “

Students benefit greatly from participating in sports. Sports often provide opportunity for young people to increase their physical activity and develop physical and social skills. However, every time a student walks onto a field, rink, or court, they are at risk of getting a concussion. Even the most advanced and expensive equipment do little in preventing concussions. According to Dr. Mjaanes, helmets and mouthguards decrease the risk of skull fracture and dental injuries but they have not been shown to decrease the incidence of concussion. To help keep your child safe while playing sports Brian Werner, physical therapist at Fyzical Therapy and Balance Centers, in Las Vegas, Nevada, recommends every athlete get a simple Baseline Test before each season.

“The most important thing you can do as a parent for your child or for an athlete is baseline testing, because what’s happening is that you get the concussion but we don’t know what you were like before. So how do we know what you should be? And so one of the most important components of managing the athlete is getting a baseline test of your cognitive system and of your balance system annually. “

While a concussion may be difficult to diagnose, the symptoms can be easy to recognize. Dr. Mjaanes explains.

“The most common symptom of a concussion is probably a headache. The second most common symptom is dizziness but the symptoms of concussion can vary from, feeling in a fog, feeling mentally unclear, things are just not quite right. Having difficulty remembering, difficulty with concentration. Things like that.

You can have sleep issues. They often have insomnia, hard for them to fall asleep, but at the same time they feel very fatigued, slowed down and very tired so that’s very common and they can have dizziness, nausea, vomiting. Also common, they can have obvious signs of emotional issues, feeling depressed, feeling very anxious. So the one thing that parents need to understand is that loss of consciousness, actually getting knocked unconscious is a sign of a concussion, it could be a sign of a concussion, but it’s a very rare sign of a concussion. In fact, it probably happens less than 5 or 10% of the time meaning 90 to 95 percent of concussions happen without any loss of consciousness. So when a parent tells me well he didn’t get knocked unconscious so I know he didn’t have a concussion no that’s not true you can definitely have a concussion without getting knocked unconscious.”

In youth athletics, there aren’t medical personnel with training in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of concussions waiting on the sidelines like most professional sports. Dr. Mjaanes urges parents to use their own judgment when their children are participating in full contact sports. In general, if your child exhibits symptoms over 5 minutes there is a likelihood he is suffering from a concussion. Do not allow your child to return to the sport until a physician knowledgeable with concussions releases your child back to playing sports.

I'm Ken Moll for Legal News Network -- your source for safety information.

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