Concussions on the Rise, and Brain Damage, Too

This probably won't surprise the parents of many high school athletes but a new study has shown the incidence of concussions is exploding.

According to newswise.com, the concussion rate in these athletes has more than doubled in the last seven years.

Overall, the rate increased from .23 to .51 concussions per 1,000 athlete exposures. An athlete exposure is defined as one athlete participating in one competition or practice.
A concussion is an injury to the brain that results in temporary loss of normal brain function. It usually is caused by a blow to the head, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANNS) says. "The likelihood of suffering a concussion while playing a contact sport is estimated to be as high as 19 percent per year of play. More than 62,000 concussions are sustained each year in high school contact sports, and among college football players, 34 percent have had one concussion and 20 percent have endured multiple concussions."

Concussions often cause significant and sustained neuropsychological impairments in information-processing speed, problem solving, planning, and memory, and these impairments are worse with multiple concussions.

Experts warn us not to get too upset, as the increase may be more about better reporting of such injuries than an actual rise in the injuries themselves.  Around 2008-2009, states began passing legislation promoting education about concussions and setting “return to play” guidelines for youth sports. Media coverage about head injuries in professional athletes has also increased over the last five to 10 years.
“It’s scary to consider these numbers because at first glance it looks like sports are getting more dangerous and athletes are getting injured more often,” said Joseph Rosenthal, clinical assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study. “This study is observational so it doesn’t offer any proof about why the rates are going up. But I think in reality it’s showing that concussions that were occurring before are now being diagnosed more consistently – which is important.”
But concussions continue to have the potential for permanent brain damage, as the former pro football players who now suffer from dementia who have come forward point out.  

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