PHOENIX, Aug. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- With the high school football season just around the corner, coaches, parents and athletes need to focus on one of the most overlooked, misdiagnosed and least understood injuries that is sure to affect some of the 18,000 student-athletes in Arizona who will strap on the pads this year: sport-related concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). "The biggest problem in managing sports-related concussion is recognizing the injury, especially in athletes with no obvious signs that a concussion has actually occurred," says Tamara McLeod, Ph.D., ATC, assistant professor, Sports Health Care Program, Arizona School of Health Sciences in Mesa. "Traditional neurological and radiologic procedures such as CT, MRI and EEG, although helpful in ruling out other causes of neurologic symptoms, are not useful in identifying the effects of mild TBI (concussions)." Recent studies show that more than 62,000 concussions occur each year in high school sports, with football accounting for two of every three, according to the Brain Injury Association of Arizona. However, many mild concussions likely go undiagnosed and unreported. Studies estimate that approximately 10 percent of all athletes involved in contact sports such as football have a concussion each year. In addition, close to 60 percent of concussions may go unreported because athletes are not aware of the signs and symptoms and do not think the injury is serious enough to report to medical personnel. Allowing enough healing and recovery time following a concussion is crucial in preventing further damage to the athlete. Most athletes who experience an initial concussion can recover completely, as long as they are not returned to contact sports too soon. Following a concussion, there is a period of change in brain function that usually lasts anywhere from 24 hours to 10 days but may last weeks or even months. During this time the brain is vulnerable to more severe or permanent injury. If the athlete sustains a second concussion during this period, the risk of permanent brain injury increases. "Let's face it," adds Dr. McLeod, "the typical high school athlete is competitive and wants to return to the game despite any minor symptoms. The concern is that before an athlete is fully recovered from an initial concussion, he or she is more susceptible to a second concussion and is at higher risk for further, more serious damage." Keeping an athlete out of contact play until he or she is fully recovered is absolutely essential to preventing further injury, explains Dr. McLeod. "No athlete should ever return to contact sports before it's determined his or her recovery is complete," she emphasizes. The problem of the lack of a simple, objective identification method is compounded by the fact that too many Arizona high schools do not have qualified full-time sports medicine staff trained in sports concussion. Fortunately, there is hope on the horizon. Recent career-ending concussions suffered by high-profile athletes such as Steve Young of the San Francisco 49ers have increased awareness. In addition, new objective concussion assessment tools now make it easier to identify deficits caused by injury and to monitor post-injury recovery. One tool is a computer-based neurocognitive testing program designed to aid in the management of sports-related concussion. The program uses baseline and post-injury neurocognitive testing to track recovery for safe return to play. The Brain Injury Association of Arizona is a non-profit membership organization of people with brain injuries and their families, friends, and service providers working together since 1983 to provide information & referrals, education, advocacy and support for those affected by brain injury. BIAAZ is the only statewide organization in Arizona dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people with brain injuries and their families and preventing brain injuries. BIAAZ is a chartered state affiliate of the Brain Injury Association of America.
SOURCE Brain Injury Association of Arizona