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Keeping Your Head in the Game

A bump on the head may seem like no cause for concern, but new research from Boston University shows that repeated head trauma, even minor, can cause long-term neurological risks. They studied the brains of 165 people who played football in high school, college, or at a professional level and found that 79% of them had evidence of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). CTE is a degenerated disease caused by repetitive head trauma, both concussive and non-concussive. It can begin to alter the brain anywhere from months to decades after athletic involvement ceases and leads to memory loss, impaired judgement, aggression, depression, and progressive dementia.

Professional athletes are not the only ones to be concerned with CTE. Anyone involved in a contact sport can be at risk. Ice hockey, wrestling, soccer, and competitive cheerleading are a few of the activities that have been linked to the disease. Some injuries are obvious, but others can appear over months or years, which makes them even more dangerous. Every sport has risks, but they become safer by taking some precautions.

Tips To Prevent A Concussion

• Follow the rules of a sport.

• Wear the proper equipment and keep it maintained.

• Examine the playing field for potential hazards.

• Learn the proper technique.

• Be a good team player and minimize aggression on the field.

Unfortunately, accidents still happen, but it’s important to address a head injury as soon as it occurs. In severe cases concussions can result in loss of consciousness, though milder forms can also appear as headaches, dizziness, or mild confusion. With rest, most people will recover within as little as a few hours to a few weeks. Serious concussions may require more aggressive treatment.

The most important part in dealing with a head injury is to get an evaluation by a medical professional. Failing to get proper treatment may result in long-term cognitive changes or in extreme cases, death. If there has been no loss of consciousness, then an evaluation can usually be done on the following day. Clinical experts have developed new technology to assess and track the progress of concussive injuries through the imPact system. It uses a scientifically validated computer evaluation, which means that MRI or CT scans may not be necessary.

With proper education and precaution, everyone can enjoy contact sports without the fear of short- or long-term cognitive damage.

Benjamin Petty, MD, is the only ImPACT- certified concussion specialist in Shelby County. He is a Sports Medicine specialist with Lendermon Sports Medicine, and has participated in concussion education through lectures and publications on this subject.
For more information call (901) 850-5756 or visit their website.

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