This week, a new research study is warning that high school kids playing football or hockey as part of their school sporting programs may be suffering brain injuries merely from getting routine hits to their heads as part of standard hockey or football play (which would include practice as well as game time).
These kids who are football and hockey players may be getting hits that aren’t enough to cause a concussion but still strong enough to cause brain injuries over time.
The study, released yesterday by the University of Rochester Medical Center and reported in the journal Magnetic Resonance Imaging, has as its lead author Jeffrey J. Bazarian, M.D., M.P.H., a noted researcher in brain injuries and their causes. Players, parents, coaches, as well as health care providers should take advantage of this opportunity and consider what the researchers found after doing brain scans on kids involved in high school sports.
Admittedly, this study is just the beginning: it’s pointing out a need for concern and will be followed by more research, involving more athletes. Still, it is significant enough for us to take notice of now — and to begin questioning how children with their brains still growing (and this includes high school boys) may be harmed by sports injuries to the head that we have been dismissing as minor.
Brain Injuries Should Be Considered Serious – They Can Be Life-Altering, Even Deadly
The human brain is vulnerable to injury, positioned as it is: above the neck, encased in a rather weak bone shell, the skull. All too often, traumatic brain injuries are subtle and it takes time to notice that the victim has been injured. Also all too often, these brain injuries result in permanent damage and someone’s life is forever changed as a result.
Traumatic Brain Injury is the “silent epidemic” in our country today. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, each year approximately 1,400,000 people will suffer a brain injury in the United States. Of these, 100,000 will die from their injuries and another 500,000 will face a life where they must cope with severe and horrific permanent disability.
Many assume that brain injuries happen because of a direct blow to the head or loss of consciousness, whether during a slip and fall, an accident at work, a semi-truck crash, auto collision with a heavy truck or bridge abutment. While many brain injuries are the result of trauma directly to the head, sometimes brain damage can occur without loss of consciousness or a direct blow to the head. This is so because the brain, a very soft organ suspended in cerebral spinal fluid, is encased in a very hard shell, the skull.
The brain can often be injured by striking the bony skull, which occurs during sudden acceleration-deceleration – which occurs, for example, in a crash between a car and semi-truck at highway speeds or when a person falls at work from a scaffolding or ladder. In fact, most neurologists and neuropsychologists agree that mild traumatic brain injury does not require actual loss of consciousness or direct trauma to the head.
The truth is that any injury to the head can seriously and permanently harm someone. Any sudden blow to the head can render an individual physically incapacitated and reliant upon mechanical life support, or mentally disabled, depressed, unable to sleep and incapable of exercising self-control.
Not all brain injuries are easy to spot. TBIs may be wickedly subtle in how they have damaged someone. Brain injury victims sometimes have violent, sudden mood swings as well as a frustrating loss of memory – particularly short-term memory.
TBI victims are vulnerable to being easily confused and often exhausted because brain injury often disrupts one’s ability to sleep. brain injury to children who will henceforth have learning disabilities they never experienced before their fall in the schoolyard or injury in a car or truck crash.
You should suspect a loved one may be suffering from a serious brain injury or TBI if they are show signs of being:
- Clumsiness (especially immediately after the accident) – dropping things, unable to hold tightly onto an object;
- Confusion (especially immediately after the accident) – they may not know where they are, how to get home, what day it is, etc.;
- Dizziness (either immediately after the accident or later) – dizzy spells are a big hint of TBI;
- Fatigued – very weak or too exhausted to do activities that they would normally undertake which is frequently associated with sleep disruption caused by TBI;
Headache – severe head pain may hint of brain injury;
- Photophobic – that is, bothered by bright light or extra-sensitive to loud sounds;
- Memory Loss – unable to recall new info or facts recently learned – like what they ate for breakfast;
- Nausea (especially immediately after the accident) – vomiting or feeling the urge to vomit is a common result of a brain injury;
- Numbness – the inability to feel any part of their body (finger, toe, limb) can mean TBI;
- Depression – this is a common effect of mild TBI because the person realizes she’s no longer able to think and remember as well as she could once;
- Asnomia – that is, the loss of sense of smell (the olfactory nerves which control the sense of smell are very delicate and can easily be damaged during trauma);
- Personality change – this is the most troubling aspect of TBI since it affects loved ones as well as the injured person; the inability to control one’s temper and emotions is a frequent consequence of TBI;
- Seizures– seizure disorder and convulsion can occur immediately or begin years after a TBI;
- Other diseases– persons who have suffered TBI are more susceptible to early onset of Alzheimer’s or other dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and brain atrophy.