The Concussion Discussion: Taking the Longer View
Worse than watching Sidney Crosby’s head hit on New Year’s Day, was watching Crosby’s attempt to right himself after the blow and skate off the ice. Dr. Wennberg, a University of Toronto concussion expert and NHLPA consultant, summed it thusly: “To see it was painfully obvious. The telling sign was when he tried to get up. Mr. Crosby’s right foot slipped behind him as he got back on his feet, and his mouth guard slipped out of his mouth – subtle signs that that the hit from Washington Capitals winger David Steckel jarred Mr. Crosby’s brain.” Diagnosis: Concussion.
The word concussion is derived from the latin concutere (“to shake violently”). By definition, a concussion is a traumatic closed-head brain injury caused by a blow to the head and resulting in a temporary loss of normal brain function. The old school of thought was that concussions were considered ‘minor head injuries’ because the effects were seemingly temporary, and indeed, most individuals who suffer from a mild concussion will have no long-term effects. There is increasing evidence, however, that some people who sustain a concussion, and an even larger proportion of those who sustain multiple concussions, will endure long-term consequences. In 2009, the NFL finally conceded that “It’s quite obvious from the medical research that’s been done that concussions can lead to long-term problems.” In fact, a study commissioned by the NFL found that former NFL players were being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease at a rate 19 times greater than the background rate for their non-NFL peers (see last year’s blog by Rick Bickhram on dementia and the NFL). Long-term neurological effects, which can be permanent, may include memory loss, poor concentration, impaired reasoning, seizures, and depression. Still not convinced? The February 2011 issue of National Geographic includes a graphic photograph of brain deterioration due to repeated hits to the head.
For additional information on concussions, and to access resources on concussion prevention, please visit www.thinkfirst.ca , a national injury prevention charity founded by brain surgeon Dr. Charles H. Tator.
Jennifer Hartman, guest blogger