Studies Suggest 10% of Arizona High School Football Players Will Suffer a Concussion During This Coming Season

Aug 23, 2005, 01:00 ET from Brain Injury Association of Arizona

    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
     "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
     "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
     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