Sports medicine experts are warning athletes, especially those under age 25, to be aware of symptoms following head injuries. The danger of younger athletes returning to sports before concussions fully heal can lead to traumatic brain injuries from “second-impact syndrome.”
A New York physician from the Hospital for Special Surgery stated that younger players are the most vulnerable and the least likely to notice the subtle symptoms of concussions that may occur. Young players are also subject to a learned competitiveness that makes them less prone to notify parents, doctors and coaches of symptoms.
“Second-impact syndrome” happens when an athlete experiences a second concussion and is not fully healed from the first concussion before returning to the sports activity. A subsequent head injury can easily cause serious or fatal brain injuries.
Concussion signs include mood changes, vomiting, vision or hearing abnormalities, dizziness, headaches and the inability to follow directions. Any of these symptoms experienced within several hours or even days following an initial head injury requires medical attention.
Another medical concern sports’ medicine physicians have is that the lack of symptoms is not a guarantee that a player’s concussion has healed. Experts say symptoms can diminish or disappear before full healing has taken place. A doctor’s examination and tests mimicking a physically-challenging situation can reveal if a player’s injury has healed.
Rushing a young athlete back into a contact sport is a risk that young, competitive players may be too willing to take in order to stay in the game. Coaches, parents and players are being advised to carefully watch for symptoms, err on the side of caution and consult with a physician. If any doubt exists, it is best to reduce the possible occurrence of preventable “second-impact syndrome.”
Source: US News Health, “Beware of ‘Second-Impact Syndrome’ After Concussions,” HealthDay, 22 May 2011