There was a time when no one wore seat belts. We didn’t recognize their importance because the data wasn’t available. But as more studies proved their benefit in saving lives, laws started changing and so did people’s attitudes. Today, 85 percent of people use seat belts. The overwhelming amount of evidence became clear and we were smart enough to get the message. I see this same path unfolding when it comes to concussion awareness.
It’s pretty clear after watching the World Cup, soccer may not be the game many people have perceived. It’s not all about the kicks and the legwork. There’s also a great deal of play involving the head.
Despite the fact that there is a concussion protocol within the World Cup organization, polices were ignored in some cases. Players suffering head injuries were not seen by doctors and not removed from play. One athlete who suffered a head injury continued to stay in the game until he had to be assisted off the field. Later, he admitted he didn’t remember much after being hit. Memory loss is a telling symptom of concussion.
So why would a practicing physician who does not play pro football care about the latest news regarding concussions and the NFL?
First the headlines. This week, a federal judge approved compensation for thousands of former NFL players for concussion-related claims. In her ruling, the judge stated that while the lawsuit dragged on for years, “retired players’ physical and mental conditions continue to deteriorate.”
In just a few short weeks, hundreds of thousands of young athletes across the country will be gearing up for summer practice. But while they prepare for the gridiron and learn to work together as a team for the upcoming football season, this year, they’ll be learning something new; a safer way to play that may mean fewer concussions.
There was a time when bumps to the head got little attention, particularly when they involved young athletes. Parents and coaches alike often considered them par for the course; a temporary condition in which seeing stars would pass with a few sips of water and a brief break from the game. After all, young athletes are incredibly resilient. No blood, no broken bones, no worries. Few understood the drama going on inside the young athlete’s brain or the danger it presented.
That’s changing. Concussion awareness is going global.
We commonly see patients with a problem that is not getting better, following an initial evaluation by another physician. More often than not, the course of treatment has been reasonable. Still, the patient is not better. If our evaluation and treatment is successful, our reputations are the beneficiaries of being second.
Looking at some of the high profile sporting events recently, there has been the usual array of ankle injuries, muscle cramps, bumps, bruises, and concussions. Concussions? In the case of head injuries to high profile athletes, concussions have increasingly become newsworthy injuries, largely because they have the potential to affect a player’s availability in the playoffs, both in the NBA and the NFL, just to name a few.
While concussion is in no way a political issue, this week it found its way to the White House. As I write this, President Barack Obama is hosting the White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit, packing attendants that include representatives of professional sports organizations, coaches, parents, young athletes and researchers. The goal is to take concussion seriously as a youth health issue, and raise both awareness and funding for education and research.
Another day, another concussion headline. This time, the news involved Indiana Pacers forward, Paul George. He suffered a concussion Tuesday, during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. As a physician, the most striking element in this story is the fact that George denied his symptoms during the game and played on; despite having blacked out.
A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, indicates that following a concussion, women may take longer to recover than men.
Previously, some studies have indicated that symptoms may be more severe in women who experience concussion. But the new study highlights the fact that there are likely gender differences.