Two Weeks too soon?
Concussions are a growing problem within sports. Concussions are most seen in high school, college and professional sports. Not many people realize it but concussions are considered to be a traumatic brain injury and can be extremely dangerous. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, every year, at least 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries occur. Of those, 75% are due to concussions. Overall, a shocking one third or 30.5% of people lose their lives to traumatic brain injuries. Over the last 10 years there has been a huge increase in the frequency of concussions; CDC estimated that there are 3.8 million sports related concussions per year. Of the 3.8 million, 700,000 occur in children from 1-19 years of age. Concussions have doubled with 8-13 year old children. Concussions increased over 300% for children 14-19 years old. The above statistics are for the concussions that are reported to hospitals; most concussions never even get reported. There are at least 40% more concussions for just children or at least 280,000 missed concussions. If we know this, then why are sports players, some of the most prone people to endure a concussion, not taking it more seriously? Most states have passed a law stating that after a concussion, athletes may not step back onto the field until getting cleared by a doctor and sitting out for two weeks. But what if two weeks isn’t enough? What if the athlete goes back to soon? I believe that it is imperative that athletes should have more than two weeks before stepping back onto a playing field.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head or body, a fall, or another injury that jars or shakes the brain inside the skull. Although there may be cuts or bruises on the head or face, there may be no other visible signs of a brain injury. However, common signs of a concussion are headache, fuzzy or blurry vision, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to light or noise, balance problems, feeling tired or having no energy. A common mistake when it comes to concussions in athletes is that if they don’t lose consciousness, then they don’t have a concussion, which is false. You don’t have to lose consciousness to have a concussion. Some people will have obvious symptoms of a concussion, such as passing out
or forgetting what happened right before the injury. But other people won’t. With rest, most people fully recover from a concussion. Some people recover within a few hours. Other people take a few weeks to recover. In rare cases concussions cause more serious problems. Repeated concussions or a severe concussion may require surgery or lead to long-lasting problems with movement, learning, or speaking.
Concussions use to be a thing where you just “got your bell rung” and went back into the game with a little bit of a breather. Now it’s growing into something a lot bigger than we thought. Fifteen-year-old Allison Kasacavage was featured in an NBC news article in May of 2012. Allison, once a rising soccer star in Pennsylvania, is slowly recovering after suffering debilitating concussions while playing soccer. In the article it states, “Allison, who lives with her family in Chester Springs, Pa., has had at least five concussions. She is only able to attend school four hours a day. Her room is lit with soft blue light to ease her headaches and her family now eats dinner by candlelight.” Her entire life turned around because of these concussions. After Allison got her first concussion in October of 2008 she quickly went back to playing soccer due to the pressures of pleasing her coach. Allison suffered a third concussion in her final season of soccer and another two off the field. The last two were due to hitting her head off furniture due to her spatial awareness had been impacted from the other concussions. In a quote from Dr. Cantu, he stated, “What’s happening in this country is an epidemic of concussions, number one, and the realization that many of these individuals are going to go on to post-concussion syndrome, which can alter their ability to function at a high level for the rest of their lives.” Allison kept going back way too soon instead of waiting for each individual concussion to heal. This is what caused her spatial awareness to be impacted, resulting in her last two concussions and lead to post-concussion syndrome.
This topic really hits home for me. Like Allison, I also was impacted by concussions through soccer. Like Allison I had been playing soccer since I was only six years old. The pressures of my parents and coaches were always there and injuries were never an option. I too, have had five or more concussions. Most of them I never went to the doctor for because I knew that the regulations for soccer said that if I did, I had to sit out for two weeks; so I played through it. The few times I went to the doctor I sat out for my two weeks but when I went back I could tell that it wasn’t the same yet. It wasn’t enough time. On September 16, 2012 I got my final concussion. It took me a while to go to the doctor but this time it was different, I knew something was really wrong. Concussion regulations were cracking down where I was from and my dad was on the committee so he knew better not to just take me to a regular doctor. We went to a Dr. Neha Raukar, a specialist in concussions and sports. I took a computer based test that measured my reflexes, memory and other skills.
I failed miserably; being in the lowest percentile. My doctor told me that I had post- concussion syndrome. She said it was probably due to the fact that I never gave my other concussions enough time to heal and this last blow brought all the symptoms out full blown. I had headaches every day, I was completely out of it, I couldn’t have the lights on in a room, I slept the majority of the day, and my school work had to be modified so I could do it without straining myself; Such as untimed tests, and little to no homework. It sounds great, but it was my senior year of high school and I couldn’t bring myself to go out or be with my friends or do what a normal senior was doing because of the condition I was in. worst part was that I could never play a contact sport again or risk permanent brain injury or fatality. It’s a year later and I am still affected by it. I just learn to do things differently. No one realizes the long term effects of concussions; like the fact that I have a much higher chance to develop Alzheimer’s now. Just because I couldn’t wait for my concussion to heal, my life has been affected forever.
There are endless arguments for why waiting more than two weeks for a concussion to heal is a good idea. However there is another side to this argument. Put yourself in the position of an athlete. Say its high school soccer season and your trying to compete for a varsity striker position. One day while scrimmaging you get slide tackled and fall on your head, resulting in a concussion. You go to the doctor with the force of your coach (because they are required to tell you to in high school soccer) and your doctor tells you to sit out for two weeks. At the end of the two weeks you feel fine! You still have time to fight for that position so you tell your coach you’re ready to go. But when you start to play you start to feel weird, not like yourself but you keep going because you’re fighting for that position. If you were an athlete your position on this argument would be completely different. An athlete is determined to fight for that spot and they are pressured by parents and coaches and sometimes even things like scholarships and colleges. For them, two weeks as it is is too long for them to be sitting out. However, what they don’t realize is that there are long term affects to concussions and how serious they can be. The CDC has estimated that there are 3.8 million sports related concussions per year. There are at least 280,000 missed concussions per year. These are the ones who are more at risk for things like post- concussion syndrome and don’t realize what could happen if they keep getting these concussions and if they go untreated. I would know, I was one of those 280,000 and back then I wish I knew all I did now. If I had, I wouldn’t have been impacted by concussions as greatly as I am today.
Concussions are no laughing matter. Sadly, the number is growing every day, and this is without the majority of them getting reported. Sports are supposed to be a release; a passion. But recently they are spiraling into a death trap. If we don’t become more educated on concussions, what will happen to this generation of athletes and the ones to come? I had to learn that two weeks wasn’t enough the hard way, as did Allison. Make it so no one else has to endure what we did. Stop post- concussion syndrome in its tracks. It is imperative that athletes should have more than two weeks before stepping back onto a playing field.
“Concussion – WebMD: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention.” WebMD. WebMD, 23 July 2010. Web. 04 Nov. 2013. “Injury Prevention and Cpntrol:Traumatic Brain Injury.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 Aug. 2013. Web. 04 Nov. 2013. Snow, Kate. “Concussion Crisis Growing in Girls’ Soccer.” NBC News. N.p., May 2012. Web. 04 Nov. 2013. “Sports Concussion Brain Injuries.” Life Quality. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.