Nov 23, 2010

Pay Attention to Concussions

I remember sitting on the sidelines next to a high school football teammate after he was crushed by an opposing player on a kickoff return. He didn't look hurt. He wasn't screaming in agony or gripping his head. He was just kind of glazed over like a little kid watching cartoons.

Our trainer kept asking Charlie questions like "Where are we?" and "Who are we playing?" Charlie hesitated to answer but eventually responded correctly. Then the trainer asked him what his home phone number was. Charlie couldn't even get the area code right, and the town we lived in only had one area code.

Fortunately, our coaches and trainer were conscientious enough to keep Charlie out of the game after they knew he had a concussion. But that's not always the case. In fact, a 2004 study in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that 47 percent of all the concussions in high school football aren't reported at all. That means that half of all the players who get concussions don't report them and may not be properly treated.

Why is this a big deal? Football players "get their bells rung" all the time, right? Before I started working at a pediatric hospital, I would've told you the reason for all the concussion attention is paranoid people with too much time on their hands. After all, Charlie got a concussion and he turned out to be a respectable member of society - a banker with a wife and young child. It may not be saying much, but he appears no more brain damaged than me.

But I know better now. Why? I could tell you all the impactful statistics and patient anecdotes our experts in Sports Medicine have told me. I could also give you some info I've learned by following national news on concussions - that they're linked to migraines, Alzheimer's and depression.

But, really, this CNN video on a star high-school football player explains better than I can why concussions aren't to be dismissed. Simply put, they can be debilitating.

However, I'm not writing this to create fear and hysteria. On the contrary, I'm writing this to let you know there are ways to identify concussions and minimize their effects.

Children's post Concussion Resources contains several different stories and information sheets on concussions.

It's worth your time to look. You need to know what's going on if your child can't remember his phone number.