Recent evidence indicates that repeated concussions cause cumulative brain damage, and the damage shows up as chronic neuropsychological deficits which tend to result in social dysfunction, lost productivity time, and excessive healthcare costs (B W Benson et al. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2002).
Even though there has been a lot of hype in recent news, concussions are still vastly underestimated in the sports world. I personally feel that there needs to be an environment created where the patient/athlete is treated properly, not just sent home to rest with sunglasses, pain killers, and an ice bag on their head. Proper follow up is imperative.
Considering the growing incidents of concussions resulting from sports, it appears that there aren’t sufficient healthcare practitioners who treat concussions for neuro-functional control. Very few practitioners are doing anything to stimulate the areas of the brain that have been concussed for the injured person’s brain to recover more quickly with reduced long-term adverse, or life-threatening effects.
Treating concussions is a specialty in the field of sports medicine and it is one of the specialties at our clinic as well. Our approach is an integrative one, with physicians who initially treat the injury and later provide the aftercare needed for thorough healing. In my opinion, this is the best approach for treatment of concussions.
Recently, sports-related concussions have become a hot topic, because there is a lot of media exposure regarding pro athletes who have suffered from repeated concussions and exhibit the many debilitating effects of long-term damage that can happen with repeated concussions. To date, medical science does not comprehend the full impact and long-term effects of having multiple concussions.
In my clinic, I am regularly treating an increasing number of high school athletes with concussions.
According to researchers (They, et al. “Heads Up”: Concussions I High School Sports - a review, Clinical Medicine, and Research, 2004) high school athletes are more susceptible to concussions, and they take longer to heal. High school athletes seem to recover about one week slower than their college-age counterparts. These younger athletes are also about three times more likely to have a second concussion in the same season as the first one. We call this “Second Impact Syndrome” and it can be caused by trauma, as well as the chemical after-effects of the first concussion, as I mentioned earlier.
My strongest belief is that it is vital that athletes are properly evaluated immediately after the concussion, just as they would be for any other injury that requires emergency care. The fact is if you don’t get proper treatment, and you’re in a position for multiple concussions to happen, real damage can occur. The “gold standard” out there now is repeated evaluation, without any real care for the injured individuals. The lack of complete treatment options for concussions is sad and I believe more development in thorough and proper treatment is necessary to prevent further or permanent brain injury in these cases.