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The Evolution of Concussion Awareness

James Ryan

From an awareness standpoint, life is a whole lot different now than when I was growing up in the 70′s and 80′s. As young athletes, my friends and I were constantly pushing our physical boundaries, with very little regard (if any) for our own personal safety. Between martial arts, “kill the man with the ball” on the Kenney’s hill, and the several years that I spent as an aspiring daredevil skateboarder/bmx racer, I had more than my fair share of minor concussions throughout the years. Getting my “bell rung” was a normal and natural occurrence it seemed. So common in fact, that I never even bothered to tell anyone about it, including my parents. Knee pads were acceptable because at least the pros wore them in the magazines. Helmets on the other hand, were for wussies and posers. That was the mentality back then.

Fast forward and my opinions on head injuries have changed quite drastically. But I guess that’s what happens when you become a father. You start looking back on all of the crazy stuff that you used to do as a kid, and then you try to protect your own children from suffering the potentially serious injuries that you were lucky enough to avoid. I swear to you, looking back, I really don’t know how I’m not either dead or at the very least, permanently disabled as a result of some of the things that we used to do. As kids, we truly thought we were indestructible. And we were wrong.

As a youth football coach, concussions are definitely not something that I take lightly. In fact, my own son is still suffering from post-concussion syndrome from an incident (non-football related) that occurred over a year and a half ago. Not only did it change his ability to play contact sports, but it also seems to have changed his entire personality; just one of the many byproducts of post-concussion syndrome.

With football and hockey being the leading causes of sports-related head injuries in children, it’s important to teach kids the proper techniques that will help to prevent injuries, but even with such safety measures in place, we’ll never be able to fully prevent accidents from happening, especially in high-impact and high-collision sports.

So are concussions inevitable in all contact sports?

I’d like to be able to say no, but the odds are certainly in that favour. Any contact sport carries with it a certain degree of risk, so unless you’re planning to wrap your child up in a big plastic bubble for the rest of his or her life, there’s really no guaranteed way to prevent them from ever happening. Therefore, the concentration shouldn’t just be on prevention, but also on education, which would include recognition, adequate rest times, and proper medical treatments. In other words, don’t ever rush back from a concussion. Give yourself time to heal properly, no matter how long it takes.

Second Impact Syndrome isn’t something to mess around with.

Second Impact Syndrome (SIS) is a condition in which the brain swells rapidly and catastrophically after a person suffers a second concussion before symptoms from an earlier one have subsided. This deadly second blow may occur days, weeks or minutes after an initial concussion, and even the mildest grade of concussion can lead to SIS.

“The condition is often fatal, and almost everyone who is not killed is severely disabled. The cause of SIS is uncertain, but it is thought that the brain’s arterioles lose their ability to regulate their diameter, and therefore lose control over cerebral blood flow, causing massive cerebral edema.

“Most cases of SIS have occurred in young people, who are thought to be particularly vulnerable. Young athletes are most at risk. In order to prevent SIS, guidelines have been established to prohibit athletes from returning to a game prematurely. For example, professionals recommend that athletes not return to play before symptoms of an initial head injury have resolved.”

Special Thanks to MastersInHealthcare.com For This Graphic
Concussion Infographic

James Ryan
James Ryan

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