Heads Up For Student-Athlete Brain Injuries

We discussed in this blog previously how the NFL has focused national attention on the danger of both short- and long-term dangers from concussions in all age groups, and that even a “mild” concussion is a form of brain injury. We also noted that “getting your bell rung” in high school athletics may not be as severe as at the collegiate or pro levels, but possibly more damaging due to the stage of development of teenagers. In fact, data from the National Center for Injury Protection and Control indicates that teenagers may be the group at the highest risk for suffering a traumatic brain injury.

That’s perhaps what makes a study to be published in the Journal of Pediatrics so interesting, even if it is “common sense.” In research that focused on youth hockey, it appears  bracing for an impending blow to the head could reduce the harm from the hit In the study, players wore helmets hooked up to high-tech sensors that measured impact and compared that to game videos and with the number of injuries the players suffered during the season. According to the findings, being prepared for an imminent concussion helped offset more serious injuries. As CNN explains:

“If players anticipate collisions they can better absorb the forces related to impact,” said Jason Mihalik, lead study author and assistant professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “[Athletes] who don’t expect to get body checked are not able to tense the neck muscles to absorb force, and that can lead to a more severe impact to the head.”

Coaches need to train players to avoid the “calamitous” effects of being blindsided, according to Professor Mihalik. So if your kids are active on middle school or high school sports teams, remember that any impairment to the circuitry of the brain at minimum diminishes the ability to process information and perform in school. And serious concussions can lead to permanent and severe harm to the injured person.

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