October 30, 2018, Kitchener, Ontario
Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer
There has been a lot in the news about sport, concussion and long-term brain damage. Researchers are now investigating how many blows to the head are too many. A new research paper has focussed on trying to answer that question by looking at football players.
It appears that whether football players sustain a concussion after a hit to the head may depend on how many times and how hard he has been hit in the days to months leading to the concussion event. The research suggests that in most cases there is a cumulative factor involved in concussions rather than just a single impact event. The findings of the research support policies that try to limit head blows during training and games.
Many studies have already shown how the structure and function of American football players brains change throughout the course of their careers. This happens with or without them ever being diagnosed with concussion after head impacts. The findings of these studies suggest that damage to the brain following successive head impacts reaches a certain tipping point, by which an athlete's chances of suffering concussion increases.
To investigate whether repetitive head impacts play a role in the onset of concussion in college football players, Stemper and his colleagues turned to Division 1 of America's National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The researchers matched 50 athletes suffering concussion with others who did not, but who played in the same position and were on the same team.
The analysis shows that repetitive head impact exposure plays a role in the occurrence of concussive injuries in some college football athletes. Overall, compared to the players in the control group, 72 per cent of the concussed athletes in the study experienced more exposure to head impacts either on the day of suffering a concussion, or during the season leading up to the event. The link between cumulative exposure to head impacts and a subsequent onset of concussion was more pronounced among athletes taking part in more contact activities. For example, 82 per cent of athletes who participated in ten or more days of contact play had greater head impact exposure than their matched control group.
"This unique analysis provides further evidence for the role of repetitive head impact exposure as a predisposing factor for the onset of concussion among Division 1 college football athletes," says Stemper. "While these trends require further validation, the clinical implication of these findings supports the contemporary trend of limiting head impact exposure for college football athletes during practice sessions."
Brian D. Stemper, Alok S. Shah, Jaroslaw Harezlak, Steven Rowson, Jason P. Mihalik, Stefan M. Duma, Larry D. Riggen, Alison Brooks, Kenneth L. Cameron, Darren Campbell, John P. DiFiori, Christopher C. Giza, Kevin M. Guskiewicz, Jonathan Jackson, Gerald T. McGinty, Steven J. Svoboda, Thomas W. McAllister, Steven P. Broglio, Michael McCrea. Comparison of Head Impact Exposure Between Concussed Football Athletes and Matched Controls: Evidence for a Possible Second Mechanism of Sport-Related Concussion. Annals of Biomedical Engineering, 2018; DOI: 10.1007/s10439-018-02136-6
Parents and coaches should be aware of the cumulative impacts of concussion and the long term brain damage caused. We now know that individuals who suffer repeated concussions are more prone to early onset dementia and other degenerative brain ailments.
Please make sure that your children always wear a helmet, that they play safe, and if they are injured that you follow the doctor’s advice for rehab. When the doctors suggest that a sport be stopped, we should listen.