Returning to sports too soon after a concussion could be deadly

More than 130,000 young people suffer concussions while playing sports every year.

Athletics are second only to car crashes as the leading cause of brain injury for 15 to 24-year-olds.

Experts say many young athletes are not taking concussions seriously, and getting back to the game too soon can cause problems for the rest of their lives.

From the gridiron, to the ball field, to the soccer stadium -- athletes put their hearts, and sometimes their heads, into every move.

16-year-old soccer star Jonathan Weber suffered a concussion.

"The guy's forehead hit me right in my mouth, and I blacked out right away," says Jonathan. "I got headaches for a month or a month and a half after."

Before he was allowed back on the field, he had to go through two months of rest, rehab and monitoring.

Jonathan thought it was overkill. Experts say it's necessary.

"If you can function, and you can remember your name and remember who's president, you're ok to go back to sport. That's just not the case anymore," says Dr. Trent Nessler, managing director of Baptist Sports Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.

Physical therapists spend weeks building up his reflexes, and working on balance. While staring at a disco ball, Jonathan has to focus on not falling. His heart rate is monitored weekly.

He is not allowed on the field until he can get his heart rate up without headaches and nausea.

Studies show more than 40 percent of high school athletes return to action too soon after a concussion.

"Every time you have a concussion, you're more susceptible to another concussion," says Dr. Nessler.

Returning too soon is also linked to depression, early dementia and, in rare cases, second impact syndrome -- where the brain swells, causing respiratory failure.

"I realized it could impact me later on in my life," says Jonathan.

Sitting on the sidelines wasn't fun, but Jonathan knows it will pay off even after his high school soccer days are done.

Last year in North Carolina, two high school football players died from second impact syndrome. They returned to play two days after suffering a concussion.


REPORT #1599

BACKGROUND: According to a study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy
at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, when high school athletes suffer concussions, as many as 40.5 percent return to action prematurely and set themselves up for more problems in the future. Concussions account for almost one in 10 sports injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For young people between ages 15 and 24, sports are second only to motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of brain injury. More than 130,000 concussions occurred in sports in 2008. About 3.8 million students competed in those sports. The most concussions occurred in football and boys' and girls' soccer. The study also found that 16 percent of football players reported returning to play the same day they lost consciousness. Doctors say young athletes, whose brains and skulls are immature, risk death or additional concussions by going back to the field too soon. Recurrent concussions also have been linked to depression and early dementia. "Not only are some kids returning to sport too quickly, but they're putting themselves at a higher risk for getting another concussion. It won't take as much force to set off that next concussion," Trent Nessler, a physical therapist and managing director at Baptist Sports Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., told Ivanhoe. "Concussions have a huge impact on kids' lives." He also added that anyone who suffers a concussion or even suspects one should see a doctor immediately.

WHAT IS A CONCUSSION? The brain is made of soft tissue and is cushioned by spinal fluid. It is encased in the hard, protective skull. When a person gets a head injury, the brain can slosh around inside the skull and even bang against it. This can lead to bruising of the brain, tearing of blood vessels and injury to nerves. A concussion is a temporary loss of normal brain function.

SYMPTOMS: The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and may not be immediately apparent. They can last for days, weeks or even longer. The two most common concussion symptoms are confusion and amnesia. Others include headaches, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea or vomiting, slurred speech and fatigue. People can also suffer from memory or concentration problems, sensitivity to light and noise, sleep disturbances, irritability and depression.

For More Information, Contact:
Lauren Fulton
Baptist Sports Medicine
Nashville, TN
(615) 254-0575

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
WNDU - Channel 16 54516 State Road 933 South Bend, IN 46637 Front Desk: 574-284-3000 Newsroom: 574-284-3016 Email:
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 57003092 -
Gray Television, Inc.