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The Lasting Impact: A Closer Look at Traumatic Brain Injury

National Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month is dedicated to raising awareness of the connection between winter sports and brain injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control, brain injuries are becoming a serious public health problem in the United States which contributes to a large number of deaths and disabilities per year.

Since 2002, it is documented that each year, 1.7 million Americans sustain some form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) with the highest incidents occurring in children and teens. As mounting medical developments are made regarding the long-term effects of brain injury, so does the growing concern over safety in our youth’s extracurricular activities. With approximately 35 million children participating in organized sports yearly, it’s imperative that measures are taken to raise awareness regarding our kids’ well-being. Bumps and bruises happen; repeated TBI causing a lasting negative impact shouldn’t.

As defined by the Mayo Clinic, TBI occurs when an external mechanical force causes brain dysfunction. A jolt or blow to the head or body causes the brain to move inside the skull causing tears, contusion, and swelling. Because each individual responds differently to brain-related injuries, symptoms may appear immediately or take a few days to present themselves.

The effects of TBI are categorized as either mild or severe, though every brain injury is considered a serious one. Immediate symptoms range from confusion and loss of consciousness while memory loss and mood swings can occur later on. A serious brain injury may result in limited body function, a coma, or death. Visit http://mayocl.in/1njXYUc for more detailed information on the causes and symptoms of TBI.

The most common form of brain injury is a concussion, which can cause damage to the blood vessels and nerves in the brain. Concussions often occur during high-contact sports and can lead to future health problems if not treated correctly. SCPT recognizes the importance of raising awareness regarding sports injuries and provides a Concussion Prevention Awareness Program to educate schools, teams, and coaches on the prevention and treatment of concussions. Many players don’t get the proper therapy needed to heal a delicate brain injury and return to the game too soon. Multiple untreated concussions can cause devastating outcomes for individuals and their families.

In 2014, the NFL reached a settlement that would award former players millions of dollars due to concussion-related brain injury that athletes claim caused dementia, Alzheimer’s, and mood disorders later in life. Though football seems to be consistently in the hot seat for brain-related injury, it’s not the only sport that puts players at risk. Soccer, synchronized swimming, hockey, and cheerleading also have high rates of reported brain injuries.

So how do we keep our kids safe while letting them participate in the activities they love? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that educating players, parents, and coaches to increase awareness on best practices is the key to reducing the number of injuries and the impact on athletes’ well-being.

The CDC encourages quick action and a slow, steady recovery. By removing a player immediately from the game after impact, the coach will have time to assess the situation, watch for dizziness, slurred speech, and confusion. Vomiting, headache, or change in behavior are also common symptoms and should be addressed by an emergency medical professional. Children should never return to the game while their symptoms persist and all short-term and long-term effects should be completely gone prior to easing back into physical activity. Safety equipment should be worn properly at all times, and while it can’t prevent a brain injury, it’s an important component in overall safety. Good sportsmanship and abiding by the rules of the game can add to a safer atmosphere for all and keep things fun. To learn more about the CDC’s Heads up Youth Sports Awareness initiative, go to: http://1.usa.gov/19UxM1y.

SCPT is committed to the prevention and rehabilitation of sports-related injuries. As a member of STOP Sports Injuries, SCPT helps raise awareness of the long-term consequences of overuse and trauma injuries. For more information, visit: http://www.southcountypt.com/services/sports-medicine/stop-sports-injuries/.

If you or a loved one struggles with TBI or other sport-related injuries, call SCPT today at 508.832.2628 to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled therapists.

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