Unlike a structural injury that involves a ligament tear or a shoulder sprain, brain injuries are not always apparent or detectable, so athletes sometimes continue playing without knowing they are at risk for further debilitating outcomes. Among 38 million boys and girls that participate in organized youth sports and 135 million participants (ages 6+) in team sports in the U.S., concussions are one of the most commonly reported injuries.
The following statements are from information and research published in a variety of professional journals:
- The majority of fatal sports-related brain injuries occur to those less than 18 years old.
Pellman et al, Concussion in Professional Football: Recovery of NFL and High School Athletes Assessed by Computerized Neuropsychological Testing, J Neurosurgery, Feb 2006.
- Second impact syndrome (SIS) can occur when an athlete sustains a second blow to the head before recovery from the first concussion. The second blow may be relatively minor and can cause rapid brain swelling, respiratory failure, permanent brain damage and possibly death.
Cantu, Second Impact Syndrome: A Risk in Any Contact Sport, The Physician and Sportsmedicine, June 1995.
- Nearly all of the cases of SIS have occurred in athletes less than 18 years old.
Kevin Guskiewicz, PhD, ATC
Only 47% of high school football players report their concussions.
McCrea et al, Unreported Concussion in HS Football Players: Implications for Prevention, Clin J Sport Med. 2004; 14:1
It is extremely unlikely that helmets can prevent concussions the way they prevent skull fractures. Even Riddell’s specialized anti-concussion helmet has only been shown to reduce the rate of concussions by 2.6%.
Jeffrey Kutcher, Chairman of the American Academy of Neurology’s sports section as told to the United State Senate
High school football players who stated their concussion symptoms cleared within 15 min after being struck in the head did not return to baseline until an average of 6 days later. Furthermore, they had higher symptom scores 36 hours after the head injury on ImPACT testing.
Lovell et al, Grade 1 or Ding Concussions in High School Athletes, American Journal of Sportsmedicine, Jan/Feb 2004.
Neurocognitive decrements may persist when athletes no longer report concussion-related symptoms. In a study of collegiate athletes, 38% showed deficits in neurocognitive testing (ImPACT) despite claiming to be symptom-free following a concussion.
Broglio et al, Neurocognitive Performance of Concussed Athletes When Symptom-Free, J Ath Train, December 2007.
An important consideration in return to play is that athletes should not only be symptom free but also should not be taking any medications that may mask or modify the symptoms of concussion.
McCrory et al, Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport: The 3rd International Conference on Concussion in Sport Held in Zurich, November 2008. Journal of Athletic Training, Vol. 44, No. 4, August 2009.
The top 3 signs/symptoms among 396 concussed collegiate athletes in one study were headache (40%), dizziness (15%) and confusion (9%). Loss of consciousness and amnesia occurred in only 4% and 6% of the cases.
Gessel et al, Concussions Among United States High School and Collegiate Athletes, J Ath Train, Dec 2007
Headaches are the most commonly reported symptom following concussion, occurring in 70% to 86% of athletes.
Sabini, R. and Reddy, C. Concussion Management and Treatment Considerations in the Adolescent Population, The Physician and Sportsmedicine. April 2010, No. 1, Volume 38
Former NFL players between the ages of 30 and 49 are 19 times more likely to be diagnosed with severe memory-related diseases than the general public.
2009 NFL commissioned study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy