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Archive for March, 2011

CBC radio recently aired an episode of “The Current” in which Theo Fleury guest hosted and spoke specifically about concussions in hockey. His guests included Robin Green, a neuroscientist in Toronto, Brad Madigan, a 19-year-old former hockey player directly affected by concussion, and Dr. Paul Echlin, a sports physician who recently authored a groundbreaking study on concussions in junior hockey.

What is a concussion? Concussion is a brain injury caused by traumatic forces*. At the moment of impact, the forces exerted on the head cause damage to the brain, in particular the neurons and axons, which are the cells that relay information from one part of the brain to another. This disrupts the ability of the brain to work properly, and causes it to go into an “energy crisis”.

Symptoms of concussion include: sensitivity to light, nausea, vertigo, problems with memory, and trouble concentrating just to name a few. The symptoms can vary in both intensity and duration, depending on the severity of the injury, and if it is managed appropriately. The symptoms may last a week or two, but in some instances may last up to a year or longer.

Rest is currently the most recommended treatment for concussion, but when is it safe to return to play? At this time, you are not considered safe to return to your sport until all your symptoms have resolved. There is still a great deal to be learned about concussions, and that is why we need to be careful, as we do not fully understand the long-term effects of mild concussions.

Dr. Paul Echlin did a study in which two hockey teams were followed for a season to monitor the incidence of concussion. The results were as follows: 21 concussions were diagnosed in 52 games. 67 players participated, and of these, 15 of the players were only able to play 5 games due to repetitive concussions. 69 percent of the concussions were from direct contact with the head, 80 percent of which were caused by purposeful contact to the head. 24 percent of the diagnosed concussions were from fights.

Concussions are serious, and need to be treated accordingly. The “Warrior Mentality” that some players feel they must live up to may lead to concussions not being reported, as the players feel they have to sacrifice their body. They feel like they can’t let the team down by sitting on the sidelines with a head injury. This can have very serious consequences if a concussion goes undiagnosed, or the player sustains a second concussion before fully recovering from the first. These consequences can range from the symptoms being prolonged, due to the body’s inability to rest and recover, or to Second Impact Syndrome, in which the brain basically shuts down due to trauma, causing death.

Concussion is not something that is exclusive to hockey. Head trauma may occur in any high velocity or contact sport. Downhill skiing, baseball, and football are just a few other sports that are affected. Anytime a direct contact or whiplash motion causes excess force to affect the brain, a concussion is possible. Any player who sustains this type of injury followed by problems concentrating, dizziness, nausea, or memory issues, should be evaluated by a medical professional.**

One concussion is too many. They are head injuries and should be taken seriously. Never continue your sport or activity if you are suffering from an acute concussion. Evaluation by a medical professional and proper management is essential to recovery. In the future, focus should not only center on concussion management, but prevention of such injuries, as they can have serious and lasting effects.

**This information was gathered from the February 11, 2011 episode of “The Current” on CBC radio. To listen to the whole broadcast online, follow the link.

http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2011/02/11/theo-fleury-guest-hosts/

*Definition from Wikipedia

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