College Football Tragedy Highlights Need for Concussion Education, Awareness

12/02/2014

(Bangor, Maine) - The steps parents, coaches, and athletes take when a concussion is suspected can prevent or significantly reduce the long-term effects of brain trauma. That’s the key thing EMMC Sports Health experts ask the community to keep in mind in light of the tragic loss of a college football player over the weekend who complained of concussion symptoms prior to taking his own life.

“All concussions should be taken seriously,” says Stephen Thompson, MD, Med, FRCSC, medical director of EMMC Sports Health. “Every concussion is different, and the symptoms may last days, months, or even years.”

Athletes who experience repetitive hits to the head over a period of time may be at risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive, degenerative disease that can cause memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, suicidal feelings, and other symptoms. CTE does not typically develop until years have passed since an athlete’s last known brain trauma.

“Decisive, immediate action can help prevent long-term damage,” says JP Stowe, ATC, an athletic trainer at EMMC Sports Health. “Any student athlete who experiences a concussion should be held out until evaluated by a healthcare provider and cleared to return to action.”

Symptoms may include balance problems, headache, dizziness, light and noise sensitivity, and slow reaction time. More serious symptoms, including an altered mental state, worsening headache or dizziness, vomiting (multiple times), fluid leaking from the ears, and pupils of unequal size require an immediate trip to the emergency room.

“Participating in sports can be a great way to get exercise and build leadership and teamwork skills,” adds Dr. Thompson. “We just want to make sure athletes, schools, and families know what to do when a concussion is suspected. While we don’t know the specifics of the college football player’s situation, and it would be premature to comment on the role concussion may have played in his loss of life, we do know that concussions can cause long-term issues. The most important thing for parents and coaches to keep in mind is to not to ignore anyone suffering from symptoms of a concussion.”

For more information, review an EMMC Sports Health Concussion Fact Sheet.