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Drew: Long-Term Effects of a Concussion

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By Samuetta Hill Drew

With America’s most popular, as well as its most money generating sport, football, played at the elementary, high school, collegiate and professional levels in full effect, the last two safety articles dealt with the topic of concussions. The first safety article celebrated Concussion Awareness Day held on September 16. This same safety article outlined the definition of a concussion along with its signs. The subsequent safety article identified steps one should take if an athlete is suspected of having a concussion. This week’s safety article is the last in this series and will highlight some of the possible long-term effects of a concussion.
Let’s quickly refresh ourselves on what exactly is a concession. It is a type of traumatic brain injury. For this article, a concussion typically is a traumatic brain injury that is a result of trauma to the brain due to a fall or collision. The sudden jerking motions of the head and neck resulting from trauma causes the brain to twist and bounce inside the skull. In football, it mostly occurs after a fall or a blow to the head. In most cases, they are not life-threatening, and a single concussion will not cause permanent brain damage. It should be noted this article’s focus is primarily football sport injuries, but there are many other injuries which can cause a concussion such as assaults, car accidents, gunshots, workplace injuries, child abuse and domestic violence.
Most sporting concussion symptoms will resolve within a few weeks, yet some effects are chronic. Therefore, medical attention is always needed immediately if there is any possibility of a concussion.
A chronic concussion is characterized by symptoms that include memory and sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, and psychological effects occurring more often in cases of repeated brain injury. This makes it especially concerning for competitive athletes.
Long-term effects of a concussion will persist for more than three weeks. This condition is known as clinical post-concussion syndrome (PCS). PCS occurs in 10 percent to 25 percent of all concussion’s cases.  PCS is the result of inflammation, altered blood flow, and disrupted brain cell structures due to the original injury.
The longer-term effects of a concussion, which typically last after immediate symptoms begin subsiding, can arise within days or even hours of the fall or collision. Some of these symptoms as stated earlier include the first two bullets, but also include others:
• difficulty concentrating
• significant memory issues
• irritability and changes in personality
• light and noise sensitivity
• disturbed sleep patterns
• depression, anxiety, and other psychological issues
• changes in smell and taste sensation
Most of the collegiate teams, as well as all the professional teams, have the proper helmets and experienced medical support teams. Where the younger student football programs may or may not have all the appropriate helmets and/or medical expertise needed to Keep an Eye
on Safety for your student athlete. Therefore, you may wish to inquire as a parent or guardian for your child’s safety.
If you or a loved one is a jogger and/or walker, stay tuned to next month’s safety series. It may prove very insightful in keeping you safe while exercising.