Concussions – How Serious are They?
The Sports Concussion Institute estimates that between 5-10% of all athletes will experience a concussion during a given sports season, and those numbers increase for contact sports, such as football and soccer. It is important to note that these numbers may underestimate the actual number as players may not report concussions or may not even recognize the symptoms. A mild concussion is not accompanied by a loss of consciousness, but instead is characterized by a short period of confusion and disorientation. A more classic concussion involves a loss of consciousness, confusion, and disorientation. Confusion and disorientation are typically resolved within several hours or days and is considered to be a mild head injury.
Due to the fact that the consequences of concussions are exacerbated by subsequent, even minor, head trauma, it is recommended that the player receive adequate time to let his/her injuries heal. However, as stated above, because many athletes do not recognize and/or report the symptoms of a concussion, players often return to the field shortly after suffering a concussion; return to play can occur several plays or days later. Furthermore, since prior head injuries make an individual more susceptible to subsequent injuries, returning to the field too quickly can increases the likelihood that he/she will receive a more serious brain injury. Additionally, subsequent head trauma of similar magnitude could result in more severe effects.
If repeated head traumas are so dangerous for athletes, why is it that we often see players who have suffered a hard hit and needed to be helped off the field, return a few plays later? Whose responsibility is it to look after the well being of the player and ensure that the proper safety measures are being taken? Parents, coaches, and the athletes themselves all need to make sure that proper precautions are being taken to allow the brain to recover from an injury before returning to the field. Although there may be some backlash as the athlete is eager to get back out there, it is in their best interest to sit out and seek treatment under a medical professional.