What A Hit! The True Story About Concussions

Concussions are possibly one of the most common injuries for contact sports like football, boxing, hockey, etc. Players get hit in the head all the time and injuries occur frequently. Although concussions are common, they are not fully understood by the general public. This week in our senior neurochemistry course, my classmates and I discussed the article The Molecular Pathophysiology of Concussive Brain Injury. The article does a good job of outlining what happens when a person is concussed.

When a player or person suffers a concussion, the brain becomes “leaky.” The brain begins to initiate random action potentials which then cause the release of excitatory neurotransmitters (glutamate). The brain then attempts to restore the balance. This will then cause the brain to go into hyperglycolysis, leaving behind an abundance of lactic acid. Next, there is a calcium influx which will lead to impairment of oxidative metabolism and eventually apoptosis. This is a very short version of the cellular events.

This may seem scary but modern medicine has allowed us to properly treat concussion and to limit the lasting effects. However, the worst part about concussions is that people sometimes do not know that they have a concussion or they just don’t care and want to continue to play. Symptoms of a concussion vary from person to person but common symptoms include behavioral changes, memory impairment, headaches, and cognitive impairment. The only thing a person can do to treat a concussion is to rest and allow the brain to heal itself. This may range from proper rest to eating a proper diet to watching your favorite shows. This seems simple enough but the case is that repeated concussions occur commonly. Repeated concussions have strong negative effects on a person’s cognitive ability and potentially lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy which is a serious brain disorder that leads to death.  This is why athletes must be continuously monitored. A person must let their brain fully recover before they can take another hit.

In my opinion, concussions in contact sports like football and boxing must be carefully monitored. Another way to combat the concussions is to educate the future athletes on preventing concussions. People may say that the evolution of football and the new rules that protect the players take away from the integrity of the game but the safety of the players is far more important than the game itself. I believe that more precautions can be made to ensure the safety and longevity of each player without distorting the integrity of the game.