A Hard Hitting Discussion: How Do We Effectively Treat Concussions?

I doubt it is surprising to find that a blow to the head can lead to some pretty serious implications in day-to-day and long term functions. Concussions seem to be the most common form of head injury and can be the consequence from a variety of activities that we choose to do.  Concussions can also be referred to as mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), which makes it sound a bit more serious. But what actually happens when you get a concussion? One tends to think of someone being knocked out or perhaps just dizzy. However, the complications brought about by concussions are much more serious. They affect an individuals ability to pay attention, to learn, and impair basic daily cognitive functions. But thankfully, the human brain is a remarkable structure and can repair itself even after a 200 pound lineman shoves his knee into your head and knocks you into tomorrow.

The real issue lies in how an individual goes about treating a concussion. Ideally, they should refrain from physical activity that would put them in any sort of intense physical contact with anyone else. It is critically important to the success of an individuals recovery that they do not obtain another blow to the head that could possibly further the damage done by the initial concussion. In extremely rare cases, an individual that takes on a second blow relatively soon after an initial concussion may actually be killed. This is referred to as Second Impact Syndrome and is largely a result of too much swelling in the brain due to traumatic events.

Given this very rudimentary information about concussions, it is important that we address concussions in an appropriate manner. In particular, sports-related concussions seem to be on the forefront of discussion. Let’s be real, if you get a concussion your first football game of your senior year season, are you going to be okay with having to sit out for several games? And what if you get another one after that? You’re most likely done for the season, and that’s a heartbreaker. But it is extremely important that you’re not exposed to further physical harm until you’re recovered, even if that’s the last thing you want to hear.

That being said, what is the real issue here? When it comes down to it, it’s easy for an individual to just brush off a concussion and act like it never happened, and this happens more frequently than we’d like to admit.  Additionally, it’s often times difficult to assess whether or not an individual even has a concussion. They  happen so quickly and if you retain consciousness it can be difficult to properly address what happened before the pile of guys gets up and the next play is run. Football is certainly not the only sport that this issue is a concern. What if an individual doesn’t report it? To say that a dedicated athlete is good with sitting out a few games would just be nonsense. They want to play. But how can that be healthy? Are we going to see some long term cognitive damage due to excessive and consistent concussions? Retired NFL players are coming forward and recognizing the damage done from repetitive physical damage to their heads without time to properly recover. Now that we’re having kids start playing contact sports at earlier and earlier ages, is this something we have to worry about? How will this affect their development in, for example, their learning? Are they going to start showing symptoms similar to retired NFL players in their 30’s? Or are they going to be just fine? Are we overreacting about concussions?

There have been some proposals to help curb the effects of concussions. For example, it has been suggested that indicators of how much force an individual takes upon getting hit during game play. At a certain amount of force, that individual is done for the game. Would that help or would it just take away from the actual sport? It’s not a matter of preventing concussions. They’re bound to happen. It’s a matter of how we go about treating them once they occur and seeing to it that an individual has a healthy and unhindered recovery, which is often easier said than done.