In response to recent research that shows young athletes with repeated brain injuries are more at risk for future neurological problems, the Illinois Athletic Trainers Association (IATA) and the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch (CINN) are offering a wallet-sized card with tips for detecting and monitoring concussions. The card is available to assist parents, coaches and others who work with young athletes in identifying signs of a concussion.
Experts say concussions have grown from 300,000 incidents 10 years ago to upwards of three million cases in the U.S. last year. Even more alarming is a study by the American Academy of Neurology showing that in 100 high schools across the U.S., 41 percent of concussed athletes returned to the game too soon. Those players are at risk of "second impact syndrome", a condition where the brain swells rapidly after a person suffers a second concussion before symptoms from an earlier one have subsided.
"Those figures are unconscionable," says Dean Karahalios, MD, neurosurgeon at CINN. "While we know more about how head trauma affects an adult, there is little information about how repeated concussions impact the brains of adolescents. Until we know more, our philosophy is 'better safe than sorry'."
"When there is a suspected concussion we suggest benching the player for the day. A properly conducted medical evaluation should be obtained and then the athlete should be monitored carefully for at least 72 hours," says IATA President Mike Sullivan. "Often times the symptoms will show up much later, so it is up to family members, coaches and teachers to know the signs of concussion and be on the lookout."
The "Ahead of the Game" card features warning signs that the coach or parent may observe and symptoms the athlete may report following a concussion. The card includes a mental status test the coach or parent can initiate with the concussed athlete. .
If not treated quickly, athletes may experience post-concussion syndrome, resulting in:
- Chronic memory loss
- Increased fatigue
- Chronic headaches
- Permanent brain damage
The faster a concussion is recognized and treated, the better chance a student-athlete has to make a full and expedient recovery without suffering the long-term side effects.
Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch