Brain injuries cause disruption in sports

The skull and mounds of brain tissue are what hold and protect the central organ of the body, the brain. Although the brain has its own biological helmet, it is still susceptible to severe injury. Whether an athlete plays a high contact sport that clashes with the hard green ground or competes in anything with some subtle bumping and bruising, it is possible to experience a concussion, no matter how nonviolent a physical activity is.

A traumatic brain injury occurs when someone experiences a sudden, violent, direct blow to the head. According to the Mayfield Clinic, a traumatic brain injury, or a TBI, is commonly caused by a vehicular crash, a simple fall or a sports injury. The most common TBI is a concussion, which a few Duncan student athletes have endured.

Last March, during a soccer game against Eisenhower early in the season, now sophomore Brent Bauer experienced a concussion.

Bauer was going down the field with the ball when he was tripped by player on the opposing team, which caused him to front flip twisting and striking his head on his landing.

“I found out about the concussion late that night because I was barely conscious,” Bauer said. “I blacked out, I threw up and experienced short term memory loss for a few hours.”

According to the News Magazine of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), it is important for an athlete to document his or her symptoms and report to medical personnel as soon as possible, after experiencing a brain or head injury.

“I was treated for head trauma. A helicopter was ready for me to be shipped to Oklahoma City with an I.V.,” Bauer said. ”I was in a neckbrace. I was put on bed rest for 36 hours.”

It is extremely beneficial to the injured athlete to rest and avoid any physical activity, as well as waiting for a clearance to participate athletics by a physician and/or athletic trainer, according to the NATA.

“I didn’t get to play for the rest of the season, and I might not get to play now,” Bauer said.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology, most youth who undergo a concussion during sports naturally progress from the injury through a period of symptom resolution, then a return to normal activities. In 80 percent to 90 percent of concussion cases, individuals’ symptoms resolve within about two weeks, although the recovery may differ between ages. However, in 10 to 20 percent of individuals, concussion symptoms persist for a number of weeks, months or even years.

Common high school sports associated with concussions are football, baseball and soccer, yet individuals have been affected in cheerleading, volleyball and marching band.

A concussion can happen during any physical activity, so it is important for individuals and their teams to be careful and pay attention to warning signs of a concussion. Undiagnosed concussions are even more lethal, heightening the chance of disability as well as death.

Pathologist Bennet Omalu found in an autopsy severe brain trauma in retired football Hall of Famer Mike Webster years after his athletic career. Omalu discovered the past trauma Webster experienced was built up over time, not all in one blow.The severe chronic trauma over time ultimately caused crippling mental illness and death for Webster, putting the National Football Association’s safety and health codes into question. This story of discovery inspired the upcoming movie “Concussion,” but it is just as relevant to real life.

It is important for all injured athletes, especially head trauma victims, to be properly diagnosed and treated, because the improper care of such a delicate injury can lead to even more lethal symptoms much more dangerous than just a headache.