A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, usually with mild and temporary effects. But research into this relatively common injury now shows that there can be lasting injury to the brain, particularly if the person suffers several concussions in their lifetime.
A concussion is usually caused by a blow to the head, which can happen in a fall. But concussions also occur when the head and upper body are shaken violently, such as in a serious car crash. Sometimes the injured person loses consciousness, but not always. The immediate effects can include headache, memory problems, lack of coordination or balance, and difficulty concentrating.
But there may be more subtle effects as well. That’s what medical researchers at Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy are examining. They have received 70 brains for study, many from athletes and military veterans whose jobs made them vulnerable to multiple concussions.
The NFL raised awareness of the problem by instituting stricter guidelines on return-to-play, but the death of two young football players has drawn attention to the possible connection of concussion and suicide.
In the case of one of the players, an examination of his brain at Boston University revealed structural damage to the part of the brain that controlled judgment and impulse control. He had no prior history of depression, nor was there a family history. His family did not know that he had had a prior concussion, although once they knew the symptoms of concussion they believe he may have suffered several mild concussions before the one that they suspect contributed to his death.
It’s important to take every concussion injury seriously. If you or a loved one suffered head injuries, get medical care and remain watchful to changes. In cases of serious concussion, the injured person should remain on bed rest with limited stimulation until symptoms are gone.
Source: Chicago Sun-Times, “Parents of high school football player seek answers for his concussion, suicide,” by Joseph White, August 30, 2011.