This is week is proving to be rather monumental when it comes to concussion research — something that interests me greatly, as I’ve had several, all of which occurred in my very active youth.
Researchers know that young athletes are reluctant to let anyone know if they’re experiencing concussion symptoms because they want to “take one for the team” – they don’t want to let their teammates down.
But this is a scary proposition — research has shown and continues to show that concussive injuries have a cumulative effect on the brain, and if a diagnosis is “missed,” there could be serious consequences.
This is what makes a new diagnostic tool especially exciting. In one study, sensors were placed in the helmets of football players (called “Reddell helmet sensors” )that quantitatively calculates the impact of specific blows to the head of those wearing them.
Additionally, researchers are trying to determine if chemical changes in the brain after a concussion show up in the body fluids of those injured; it turns out that there is a protein in the brain that can serve as a biomarker for clinicians in determining the severity of a specific blow to the head. The protein is prevalent in degenerating neurons in the brain.
Why is this potentially such a huge deal? Because up until now, diagnosis of concussive injuries has been subjective, meaning a diagnostician makes a determination of whether or not someone has experienced a concussion is showing specific symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, disorientation, amnesia, etc. And, well, sometimes athletes are not so forthcoming with their answers to specific questions regarding their symptoms.
In other research re brain injuries, a study published in the journal Pediatrics indicates the necessity of “brain rest” after a concussive injury; in a recent study, researchers found that patients who did little or no homework or reading after a concussion had a significantly shorter recovery period compared to those who took no “cognitive break.”
Hmmmm. . .here’s an idea: if athletes are told that they won’t have to do as much homework if they suffer a concussion? Maybe they’d be a little bit more forthcoming about the severity of their symptoms. . .