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Head Injuries

by Brock E. Schnebel, MD

Football season is approaching and safety is always in the forefront of the minds of parents, coaches and athletes. Football is responsible for about 250,000 head injuries a year according to the Brain Injury Association of America.

Concussions are a type of mild traumatic brain injury caused by a blow or jolt to the head that can range from mild to severe and can disrupt the way the brain normally works. It is a condition that should be taken seriously and properly evaluated before returning to the playing field.

Despite popular belief, the loss of consciousness is actually uncommon in head injuries. There can be a variety of presenting neurologic symptoms. On average, a team could sustain 10-15 concussions per year, and there is a wide spectrum of their severity. Players, Coaches, athletic directors and trainers play a key role in helping to prevent concussion and in managing it properly if it occurs. Although concussions cannot be completely prevented, it is important that athletes are appropriately fitted for helmets and that helmets are maintained.

To learn more about concussions in this setting, we are currently working with the University of Oklahoma and several researchers on a unique study to measure head impact through football helmets fitted with special sensors. Most critical in the management of head injuries is the identification that a head injury has occurred. Then we have to make appropriate decisions about return to play. We are interested in anything that can help athletes and physicians make good decisions.

Not all high schools have access to a properly trained physician, or a certified athletic trainer who may recognize a concussion. If you think your student-athlete has suffered a concussion, here are some signs to look for that may warrant a trip to your physician before returning to play

  • Nausea
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or fuzzy vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Headache
  • Concentration problems
  • Confusion