The University of Pittsburgh has done extensive testing on the effects of concussions in Junior High and High School athletes with rather alarming results. First of all, the old rules about concussions no longer apply. The research shows that it is NOT necessary to be knocked unconscious to have a concussion.
The University of Pittsburg Medical School has devised computerized testing for athletes to determine when it is safe for them to go back onto the field and play. In fact, now they even have the test put onto a palm pilot to take right out to the field. The test measures some rather complicated reasoning and memory data. Professional teams, such as hockey, soccer, football, even boxers and race car drivers often utilize this test with a huge database to determine safety for individual participants. Professional football player consultants at a conference I recently attended said when they put players back in before the test showed they were “safe”, the players re-injured themselves thereby hurting themselves and the team more in the long run.
Another rather scary fact about concussions is that if you sustain a second one before you are totally healed from the first one, your healing time is exponentially longer. If you sustain a third one during a season, you’re out for the season and maybe forever.
A recent article in one of the military journals covered concussions suffered by our military personnel in the current Middle East crisis. According to their statistics, again being knocked unconscious was not a determining factor. The repercussions from explosives often knocked men to the ground. These men got up and continued their duties. The next week they might not be able to remember the names of their wife or children…common aftereffects of a concussion. This military newspaper said the government has a whole division now to care for concussions, and they estimate at least 10 of all soldiers in the Middle East will have multiple (three or more) concussions.
Sports, combat, self-protection are all ways of incurring blows to the head. In addition to the usual x-rays and MRIs for looking at head trauma, the Amen Clinics utilize a particular kind of imaging that detects underactive parts of the brain. With this imaging technique, it is often possible to find old head injuries that went untreated and are still adversely affecting the person.
Personality changes, ADD like symptoms, depression are all indicators of mild to moderate head trauma. They need to be taken seriously. Even though the person looks perfectly fine on the outside, they are not perfectly fine on the inside. Their brain is being severely compromised. Serotonin levels are dramatically lower after concussions. And cortisol levels (indicative of long term stress) are elevated.
Keeping your head on straight is not as simple as it sounds.