A knock to the noggin. A bump on the head. Every 21 seconds someone in the U.S. experiences what is medically known as a concussion or traumatic brain injury. A concussion is an injury to your brain that causes problems with how the brain works. Over time, this can lead to permanent brain damage, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
More recent research has found that CTE can develop in someone who has never had a concussion but who has suffered repeated hits to the head. Khang Tran, MD, chief medical officer at Medical City Plano, was interviewed by NBC5 about this new finding.
Sports injuries, including concussions, overexertion (rhabdomyolysis) and heat exhaustion are certainly nothing new. Recently however, there's been an increase in the number of football injuries, leading at least one news article to call 2017 "one of the deadliest years for college football in decades."
The article cites a 19-year-old Midwestern State University football player who died in Wichita Falls on September 19 after suffering a neck injury in a game the previous Saturday. And unfortunately, it's not just college players who are dying. Earlier in the month, a freshman high school student from the East Texas town of Emory collapsed after a team workout.
Parents of kids even younger should take notice, too. A new Boston University study has found a link between youth football and significant health risks later in life. These include increased risk for behavioral problems and depression.
Concussions can be especially dangerous if a second concussion occurs before the first has enough time to heal. Kids who play contact sports, such as football, soccer and competitive cheerleading, are at greater risk of head injuries. Safety precautions should be taken to avoid head injuries, such as wearing appropriate safety equipment.
The Texas Longhorns football program has taken a lead in football safety, implementing cutting-edge helmet technology that records the number, location, direction and severity of hits a player receives. The data is sent in real time to a handheld sensor used by training staff.
Parents and coaches should be aware of the signs and symptoms of concussion.
Signs and symptoms of concussion.
Jason West, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Denton, says these are the most common symptoms of concussion or traumatic brain injury.
- Persistent headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Balance and coordination issues
- Perseveration (Repeating a question, word, phrase or gesture over and over)
- Amnesia to recent events
- Photophobia (sensitivity to light and sound)
Additional physical signs and symptoms to look for include:
- Neck pain
- Feeling lightheaded
- Ringing in the ears or trouble hearing
- Blurred vision or eyes that tire easily
- Feeling fatigued or tired
- Change in sleeping pattern, sleeping more than normal or trouble sleeping
Common mental and emotional symptoms that could be indicators of concussion include:
- Remembering things
- Paying attention or concentrating
- Organizing daily tasks
- Making decisions and solving problems
- Slowness in thinking, acting, speaking or reading
- Mood instability or changes such as:
- Feeling sad, anxious, or listless
- Becoming easily irritated or angry for little or no reason
- Lacking motivation
When to go to the ER with a head injury.
Gan Su, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Arlington, says it’s important to head straight to the ER if an injury includes:
- Any kind of blunt force trauma or fall without wearing a helmet
- Altered mental state
- Loss of consciousness
For fast, emergency care when you need it most, look to one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.