“You are supposed to be tough. You are supposed to play through pain. You are not supposed to cry. We are taught that early on in the game as kids. Tough sport. Brutal sport. It’s like the gladiator. People want to see the big hits. They wind up on Sports Center. And as a player, you don’t want to admit you are injured.”
-Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson
“A study of 2,500 retired NFL players found that those who had at least three concussions during their careers had triple the risk of clinical depression as those who had no concussions. Those who recalled one or two concussions were 1 ½ times more likely to be diagnosed with depression”
-Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, research director of the University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of Retired Athletes
It’s no secret that parents and coaches are more aware today about concussions and brain injuries than ever. It’s being discussed, it’s on the news, and recently the movie Concussion was released, all bringing up awareness about concussions and brain injury. What you may not realize is how elusive the nature of a brain injury is.
At Amazing Brains, where clinicians have specific treatment programs for brain-injured clients, therapists are intimately familiar with the elusive nature of brain injuries. It is estimated that each year, approximately 1.5 million Americans survive a traumatic brain injury (TBI), among which 230,000 are hospitalized. Approximately 50,000 Americans die each year following a brain injury. The leading causes of TBI’s are falls (28%), motor vehicle-traffic accidents (20%), struck by/against events (19%) and assaults (11%). (Center for Disease Control) 47% of high school football players report having at least one concussion each season and of those reports, 35% have a second injury in the same season.
It is estimated that 80% of people with brain injuries will recover completely. It is the 20% that do not recover are often misdiagnosed or a diagnosis is missed completely. According to Ronald Swatzyna, PhD, TBI expert, in those 20% of cases where a concussion or TBI was diagnosed, “post concussive syndrome can take months to years for symptoms to fully present.” Because of this delay, the presentation of symptoms can all contribute of failure of a TBI diagnosis and treatment. Knowing this can help parents and coaches look out for symptoms.
1. Know the symptoms
The most common symptoms are poor short-term memory, emotional difficulty, lack of focus, ADHD like symptoms, headaches, dizziness, depression, anxiety, vision difficulty, cognitive deficits, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, poor speech fluency, substance abuse, and sleep disturbance. According to Jonathan Walker, MD, Neurologist, “if posttraumatic symptoms persist at three months, they are likely to persist at six months and one year.”
2. Look for delayed concussion symptoms
When an individual has normal functioning prior to the injury with a symptom profile that gradually and progressively worsens after the injury this often leads to additional diagnoses. How one responds to medication, either showing no response or unwanted negative side effects, is an indicator. The complex presentation of delayed symptoms including difficulty focusing, learning, experiencing irritability and aggression, depression and possible substance abuse or suicidal ideation are all red flags.
3. In the recovery period the individual is more at risk for a secondary concussion
In the recovery period, cognitive and physical rest is important. During this period an individual is at risk for a secondary injury. Incurring multiple concussions creates a risk for secondary impact syndrome and CTE. In kids and teenagers, this risk is even greater because their brains are still developing.
With a desire to promote brain health, in addition to healthy minds and relationships, Amazing Brains’ research on concussions provides hope and new possibilities to be able to get through a concussion or TBI with more ease. With family and friends supporting the process, you will find new ways to think, feel, perform and sleep in addition to connecting with loved ones through the process. This is the greatest gift you can give to yourself or a loved one.
Join me for a free talk and open discussion on this important topic Tuesday, May 17 at 6 PM, The Basement, Riverwalk, Edwards. Call 970-343- 2709 to reserve your spot today! Learn more about the event or RSVP using our online form here.
The Management Of Concussion/TBI Working Group. (n.d.). VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for Management of Concussion/mTBI.
Swatzyna, R. J. (2009). The Elusive Nature of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Biofeedback, 37(3), 92-95.
Walker, J. E. (2007). A Neurologist's Experience with QEEG-Guided Neurofeedback Following Brain Injury. In Handbook of Neurofeedback (pp. 353-361).