The Underlying Problem
Some people believe a concussion can only occur from a substantial blow or a dramatic hit to the head, or that someone must be knocked-out or lose consciousness. From the sidelines and stands, these concussion injuries are quite apparent to all. These incidences typically are not questioned when an athlete is diagnosed with a concussion. But the seriousness of concussions goes much deeper:
Any level or grade of concussion, even those considered minor, can leave an athlete vulnerable to serious and long-standing effect, or even catastrophic injury or death if a concussion remains unrecognized, unreported. If such an athlete continues to play with a concussion, he/she risks yet another more serious concussion or development of Second Impact Syndrome.
There remains disparity in what some directly involved in playing sports – athletes, parents, and coaches consider a concussion, when compared to the opinions of professionals involved in sports medicine, athletic health care, and sports concussion research.
Another prevalent danger is that concussions can result from repeated minor blows to the head over time (hours, days, weeks). The accumulative affects of concussions are much less apparent to the untrained and uninformed, and can be just as perilous, even though they lack a dramatic hit or blow to the head.
Roughly 20% of concussed athletes will continue having lingering symptoms that require prolonged recovery and specialized medical care. Therefore, athletes suffering from concussions can not be expected to recover all the same. Individuals directly involved in playing sports – athletes, parents, and coaches have occasionally been reluctant to completely remove an athlete from competition while the athlete has symptoms of a concussion, or may find it difficult to accept that it can take more than a week or two for an athlete to recovery from a concussion.
Until 2007, catastrophic concussion injuries in football remained in single-digits for many years, averaging approximately 7 per year. Since then, a dramatic increase in catastrophic concussion injuries have been reported. Following the 2011 high school football season, 13 catastrophic concussion injuries were reported, nearly double the number of such injuries typically reported annually not long ago.
A concussion study appearing in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine (McCrea, et al 2004) involved 1,532 high school football players in Wisconsin. It revealed that 47% of players who sustained a concussion continued to play without reporting their injuries to anyone. The study listed the athletes' primary reasons for not reporting their concussion symptoms:
Efforts to enhance recognition and reporting of sports related concussions and allow proper return to play have led various states to introduce legislation enacting “concussion laws”. High-profile U.S. Congressional hearings held in late 2009 and early 2010 have implicated what some consider an epidemic of concussions in youth sports.
Locally, Nebraska has had serious and catastrophic head injuries in recent years, and while most are related to football, serious concussion injury can occur in any sport.