Concussions: A Heads-Up on Prevention

CONTACT:

Jenna Lowe

Jenna.lowe@hackensackumcpv.com

For Immediate Release

Concussions: A Heads-Up on Prevention

Westwood, NJ – New Jerseyans have a long-standing love affair with contact sports. People of all ages participate as fans or players of football, hockey, basketball, and soccer on either an amateur or professional level. Concussions are often the price team members pay for their love of the game. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that nationwide, between 1.6 and 3.8 million concussions (Traumatic Brain Injuries – TBIs) occur each year, many of them unreported. That figure means 5-10% of athletes in any sport will experience a concussion in a season of play.

It is now understood that a concussion is not simply a blow to the head that leaves one feeling dizzy or foggy for a while. Symptoms of a concussion can be mild or severe and can occur with or without loss of consciousness. The symptoms fall into four main categories that involve thought process and memory; physical manifestations such as vomiting or balance problems; emotional/mood changes; and sleep disturbances. Young children can experience the same concussion symptoms as adults but may express them as constant crying or lack of interest in their usual activities. Concussions occur in most team sports including football, soccer, basketball, hockey, and lacrosse. Some studies show that the risk for concussion is greater during practice than during actual games.

Dr. Gautami Rao is a board-certified neurologist at HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley and sees patients at the Northeastern Regional Neurology Group in Westwood, N.J. She is an avid sports fan and has two sports loving boys. “Once you realize the potential for preventing injury to our kids, you have to get involved”, she said. “70% of people playing football are between four and seventeen years of age and most of the concussions sustained in this age group are during practice sessions. There is a very good awareness of concussion evaluation in various sports, including soccer and football, but there is definitely room for more education. Teams that incorporate IMPACT testing for concussion have a much lower rate of concussion overall”. In her practice, Dr. Rao sees patients 12 years and older. She has evaluated many young people who suffered concussions and she has seen the long-term effects which can include migraine headaches or epilepsy, sleep disturbances and cognitive dysfunction.

The effects of a concussion can be brain swelling, contusions, and/or bleeding. Studies have shown that repeated hits and concussions cause cumulative, long-term brain damage. Once a person has experienced one concussion, their risk for lasting brain damage on subsequent hits is increased. In recent months, many retired sports figures have spoken publically about the effects of concussions which occurred years ago.

Team sports are just one environment where concussions occur. TBIs also take place as a result of motor vehicle crashes, falls, and workplace accidents. Members of the military are extremely vulnerable, particularly those working in a battle setting. Dr. Rao further noted, “Anyone who experiences a concussion should see a doctor and not return to regular activities until neurologically cleared. Better than being treated for a concussion, is preventing one with knowledge and the use of proper safety equipment whether it’s on the job or on the playing field.”

Dr. Rao feels strongly about the value of education in preventing concussions, particularly among children. She notes that some helmets are safer than others but any helmet must be activity-appropriate and fitted properly. IMPACT testing is also an important and user friendly way for teams to evaluate their players with possible head injuries.

In the coming months, Dr. Rao will be visiting schools, teams, and social service organizations in the area to give further education about concussion prevention, recognition and treatment.

About HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley

HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley is a 128-bed, full-service, acute-care community hospital, providing the same nationally recognized quality care for which Hackensack University Medical Center is known. The hospital features all private patient rooms at no additional cost, a state-of-the-art obstetrical unit, an intensive/critical care unit, five operating rooms, one special procedure room, and a cardiac catheterization laboratory. This inpatient hospital acts as an anchor to many in-demand, outpatient services such as radiology, women’s health and same day surgery. For more, please visit www.hackensackumcpv.com

 

 

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