The Brain Now: Concussion challenges

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Dr. Bennet Omalu and Chaka Fattah

A concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury to the head that causes the brain to move quickly inside your skull. Concussions are very serious injuries that can have wide-ranging and long-term health effects. Similar to other brain-related injuries, if you may have a concussion it is important to see a medical professional immediately.

Important facts

Concussions are the leading cause of death in children and young adults. There are approximately more than 3 million concussions per year in the United States. 

In children, the top causes of concussions are from sports or recreational injuries including bicycling, football, basketball, and soccer.

Repeated concussions can make the injuries longer-lasting and permanent in some cases. 

Concussions also affect members of the military during their deployment. 

What are the symptoms of a concussion?

Symptoms of a concussion may include the following: headache, or pressure in the head; nausea; vomiting; double or blurry vision; balance problems or dizziness; sensitivity to light or noise; feeling sluggish, foggy, or groggy; concentration or memory problems; confusion; changes in sleeping patterns; forgetting instructions; answering questions slowly; passing out; behavior and personality changes; and not being able to recall what happened before or after an injury. 

What to do if you or a loved one is experiencing a likely or potential concussion?

Go to the emergency room and seek out assistance from a health care professional experienced in dealing with this type of injury. If the injury is sports-related, do not continue to play until cleared by a medical professional.

It is important to get the proper help so you can return to your normal life as soon as you fully recover.

There are tests that can help evaluate you after a concussion, including the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) system.

Concussion and the NFL

Football fans often know generally what a concussion is because of the frequent discussions by sports analysts, the changes to NFL rules in recent years with the intended effect of limiting concussions, and the 2015 movie Concussion about Dr. Bennet Omalu (pictured left).

Dr. Omalu is a forensic pathologist who successfully fought against the NFL’s attempts to suppress his research on CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).

CTE is a devastating illness that often occurs in athletes who take repeated hits to the head. As discussed above, those hits are one of the main causes of concussions.

The connection between concussions and CTE has led to major changes in the rules of the NFL, including shortening the distance for kickoffs to reduce injuries during the kickoff return. Other significant changes have been made to penalize helmet-on-helmet contact.

Without the work of Dr. Omalu, and others, to assist current and former players in understanding the serious nature of concussions and the long-term impacts (which include CTE), these advances would not have occurred.

Also, that work gives parents the ability to choose whether their children will participate in certain sports and recreational activities with the benefit of more detailed and accurate information.

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The Brain Now: Concussion challenges

By Chaka Fattah
April 5, 2022