How Much Do Athletes Know About Concussion Symptoms?

by Tony Doran, Psy.D.
HeadFirst Concussion Care Program Director

Only a few studies have ever been conducted to examine the efforts that hospitals, universities and communities are making to educate children about the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury. Fortunately, the University of Florida is one of the few institutions who has done some work in this area. Their recent survey of 334 varsity high school football players from 11 Florida high schools uncovered some interesting, yet unsurprising, results.

Footballs - Question Mark

The conclusion that University of Florida researchers drew was that most of the high schoolers did not know or could not associate some of the symptoms that they might experience with a concussion, including nausea, neck pain, and trouble concentrating.

In fact, even with parents or guardians signing a consent form indicating they discussed concussion awareness with their child, nearly half of the study’s athletes suggested they had not.

At HeadFirst Concussion Care, our own research team recently conducted a brief survey at a local high school during the athletes’ annual sports physicals.

Our team asked high schoolers if they knew the difference between various medical injuries, including orthopedic injuries, cardiac emergencies, mTBI’s, and dehydration.

We found that these youth athletes had some knowledge of mTBI but we also learned that many of the teenagers in our sample were uninformed about dehydration and cardiac emergencies.

Conducting this research is so important because it shapes the ways we can improve our education and training.  Knowledge is the most important key to reducing the number of concussions, especially multiple traumas.

Monitoring educational programs in high schools, middle schools and recreation programs is extremely important to HeadFirst so we can find out where to direct our educational efforts to keep children, parents and coaches informed.

HeadFirst-Doc-is-InIs it OK to drink alcohol or smoke a joint ever now and then with a mTBI?

As a former military guy, I’m nearly duty-bound to remind others that using cannabis is still illegal in Maryland. This, in itself, should provide additional motivation for avoiding the drug.

As a dad, I’m stunned that more private schools in the area don’t conduct mandatory random drug tests.

Research is still ongoing, but adding chemicals to the brain, including cannabis, when it is injured and recovering would most likely add to one’s recovery time. I recommend staying away from all brain stimulants and depressants while recovering from an mTBI. This includes not only cannabis and alcohol, but also caffeine products.  — Dr. D.

College Football Conferences Begin Studying Concussion Awareness

The SEC (Southeastern Conference), a Division I participant of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), has recently formed a task force to study the effects of concussion among college football players.

The conference, which includes colleges in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, decided to form the group because of the several concussion lawsuits brought by former pro football players against the NFL.

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) of the NCAA has recently launched a task force to look into concussions among its football players and how to protect them from brain injuries.

Concern about the long-term effects of concussions is spreading from the professional level to the college athletics, especially since virtually none of the football conferences have established guidelines for dealing with head injuries.

University of Florida President Bernie Machen said last week, “We’re all aware that issues associated with concussions sustained during athletic competition have become increasingly matters of concern both within our league and indeed at the national level.”

The SEC’s decision comes on the heels of the Big Ten’s recent initiative to begin studying head injuries through its academic consortium. With 12 member universities in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the Big Ten conference includes some of the largest student bodies in the country.

Last year, the Ivy League, with eight private institutions in the northeastern U.S., became the only conference to implement specific guidelines in an effort to reducing concussions among its football players. Its rules now include limiting full-contact practices to twice a week, a 60 percent reduction from NCAA rules, as well as the possibility of players being penalized for helmet hits, including the option of suspension for intentional hits.