SPORTS-RELATED BRAIN INJURIES

Pritam Rohila, PhD
retired neuropsychologist
Chair of Oregonians for Peace

brain-injuriesFootball is one of the America’s most favorite sports. But many Americans do not know football players are prone to suffer traumatic brain injuries. It is indeed for this reason a recent USA Today report has described the game of football as “a violent, vicious sport,” and called for “a commitment to stopping the game from killing the men who play it.”

But the fact is that other sports like boxing and recreational activities like cycling and skiing also cause traumatic brain injuries. Besides falls and car accidents too contribute their share. Closed head injuries common in these situations. They generally result in concussions and contusions, which are typically caused by sudden and forceful movement of the head. In the swirling movement of the brain, long projections of brain cells called axons, are likely to be affected. Also bruising or contusions in frontal and temporal regions of the brain may be caused, as the brain glides over jagged parts in these areas of the inside of the skull.

Consequently, brain function mediated by these areas, namely attention, concentration, short-term memory, learning, impulse control and reasoning, may be compromised. Additionally the individual may experience confusion, disorientation, disequilibrium, dizziness, headache, nausea, and blurred vision.

Usually there is no or brief loss of consciousness. Also there may be some amnesia about events surrounding the brain injury. The physical neurological examination and imaging procedures are often negative. The effects of concussions and contusions are short-lived, except in case of those with history of previous insults to the brain.

Regardless, the affected individuals, as well as others around them have to make some adjustments in their expectations and in their routines for some period of time. Some steps have already been taken to prevent brain injuries in sports. More changes are necessary.

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