NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

February 8, 2014

Concussions taking a toll on young athletes

Not too long ago, experiencing a concussion was not considered such a big deal. But these days, people are now paying attention—thanks largely in part to the constant stream of media attention surrounding the injury. Every day we hear about another football or hockey player who has to miss games because of head trauma. In just the last few months, Bruins players Dougie Hamilton, Daniel Paille and Loui Eriksson have missed games due to concussions, along with Patriots players Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins.

Professional athletes aren’t the only ones affected by concussions. According to surveys submitted to the state by about 360 public and private schools, students across Massachusetts suffered more than 4,400 concussions or other head injuries while playing school sports during the last school year. This includes many injuries on the North Shore: 13 from Amesbury High School and 22 from Pentucket Regional High. And these are just the numbers voluntarily reported by schools.

Concussions—and more specifically, repetitive concussions—can have a serious impact on health and cognitive function. After suffering a head injury, some people experience chronic headaches, difficulty multitasking and dizziness for weeks after the initial impact. In more serious cases, the brain’s ability to regulate blood volume is damaged, and pressure in the brain can increase rapidly, causing death. Multiple head traumas can even cause the brain to atrophy, or waste away, leading to dementia and increased violent behavior in athletes, according to research from Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy.

There are steps parents, athletes and coaches should take to ensure that people who experience this injury receive the care they need and do not return to play before they’re ready. Comprehensive treatment programs, like those at Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals, both members of Lahey Health, can be effective tools for diagnosing, treating and managing patients with concussions. These programs include four components: education, baseline testing, management and return-to-play guidelines.

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