Concussions have continually been in the spotlight throughout many different sports. In alpine skiing, the governing body, International Ski Federation (FIS), created an international standard for helmets as far as padding and material. Changes to football helmets have also been made, and more and more soccer players are wearing “concussion headbands”. Players are getting tested after larger hits, and must past standardized tests in order to return to competition. The attitude toward concussions seems to be less serious than one might think, at least from an athletes perspective. One would suspect that a head injury would be a serious injury and should be treated with the utmost care, but many athletes do not report them, or try to return to play sooner then they should. Some even joke that concussions are just a mental thing, they are not real. However, concussions are serious and do cause alterations within the brain that can effect its function.
Concussions are characterized by headaches, impairments in memory and attention, and altered mentation. These symptoms are more a result of a functional disturbance rather than a structural one (Signoretti, Lazzarino, Tavazzi & Vagnozzi, 2011). At a neurological level, cell damage occurs as the brain bounces around the skull on impact. There is a cascade of neurotransmitters as well as ions like calcium that rush into the cell. This creates a functional disturbance which produce concussion symptoms. These issues usually spontaneously resolve with rest. However, as athletes continue to play, or return to competition too early, these issues may not be resolved.
Part of the concussion issue does lie in creating safer equipment for athletes to use. But another issue is educating athletes about the true nature of concussions. If athletes learn that these concussions cause certain neurological effects as well as Tau protein build up, which has been linked to forms of dementia, maybe concussion protocol will be followed more accurately. Furthermore, less concussions will go undiagnosed. It is true, concussions are all in your head, but that is because the source of the injury is located there. Concussions are a real tangible injury that can have long lasting effects. If athletes are not well educated, serious implications can arise that could have possibly been prevented.
Signoretti, S., Lazzarino, G., Tavazzi, B., & Vagnozzi, R. (n.d.). The Pathophysiology of Concussion. PM&R, 3(10), S359-S368. Retrieved March 4, 2015. 10.1016/j.pmrj.2011.07.018