Concussions and Football
John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Football players are more likely to sustain a concussion than kids who play other sports. Each year, more than 25,000 kids go to the emergency room with a football-related concussion. No other team sport sends more kids to the emergency room.
Football is a contact sport that requires players to collide with each other. "When you think about athletes that play football, it's a very physical sport," says Margot Putukian, MD, director of athletic medicine services at Princeton University. "They're going out to battle. There are a lot of analogies to wartime combat."
Effects of Concussion
Your brain is cushioned by a layer of fluid inside your skull. A sharp hit can cause your brain to bump the inside of your skull, causing an injury called a concussion. A concussion is more than just a simple bruise to the brain. This type of injury can make your brain stretch and swell. And when brain cells get damaged, chemical changes occur resulting in memory loss, difficulty thinking, mood swings, and changes in personality.
Signs and Symptoms of Concussion
Tell a coach or your parents immediately if you experience:
Any loss of consciousness is considered a strong warning sign of concussion. Football players with concussions also might:
Other serious symptoms of concussion include:
It's important to understand that symptoms do not always appear right after the hit. You might feel fine at first, but hours later have a headache, nausea, or blurred vision.
Any player showing these symptoms should be pulled out of the game immediately and be checked by a doctor as soon as possible. These symptoms can last for days or weeks, and rest is the only cure. If you do have a concussion, you should not return to play or practice until a doctor says it's safe.
That's because the brain of a person with a concussion is more vulnerable to further injury. And a player with a concussion who receives another blow to the head might suffer what's called "second-impact syndrome." A second impact can cause serious brain damage or even death.
The brain injuries caused by multiple concussions also might add up over time. Some studies have shown that people who experience more than one concussion during their lifetime have a harder time learning or solving problems. And the risk of lasting damage increases for people who receive more than one concussion.
There are a number of safety precautions you can take to minimize your risk of concussion. Some relate to practical precautions. Others are aimed at changing the culture of football.