Sports Injury Concussions

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Dear Dr. Caraotta,
My son is going out for high school football, but has had a concussions in the past. Is he at any greater risk to have another concussion or at greater risk for any other problems? A concerned mom, Serina.

Answer:
That is a very good question Serina. Research presented at the 52nd annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology raised the questions about risks young people take when engaging in contact sports. Dr. Barry Jordan, and Dr. Julian Bailes surveyed men who had played high school, college, or professional football, asking them about their football history, current medical symptoms, past medical history, family medical history, and social history. The players’ average age at the time of the survey was 53, and they had spent an average of 17 years playing football. A statistically significant association was noted between a self-reported history of concussion and complaint of memory changes, confusion, speech difficulties, problems remembering short lists, and difficulty recalling recent events,” Jordan and Bailes wrote. Those with a history of concussion also had a higher frequency of headache, movement disorders, and hearing or balance problems.

Dr. Jordan also related that a concussion is the mildest but most common form of traumatic brain injury. Symptoms of a concussion may include confusion, disorientation, and forgetfulness. For example, he says, a football player may forget the previous play or return to the wrong sideline.
A person may have a concussion, not loose consciousness, and this may be undetected by coaches and trainers. The problems occur if someone returns to the field while still feeling the effects of the first concussion and suffers a second concussion or the cumulative effects of multiple concussions. Several studies have shown that high school, college, or other amateur athletes with a history of at least one concussion performed significantly worse on tests of learning and memory than their teammates who had not suffered head injuries. A young person who suffers multiple concussions could have problems with memory, concentration, and decision-making severe enough to impair school performance.

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