Many athletes, especially ones who are no longer children, have suffered concussion. The older you are the greater the chance that the concussion was not diagnosed or treated appropriately. People in the 40s and 50s who were active rugby, hockey or soccer players recount four or more concussions as a normal. Competitive level athletes can often count into the double digits.
What needs to be realized though is that any concussion damages the brain, and that the brain damage is cumulative and irreversible. Until recently there has been great hesitation to describe concussion in those terms.
A recent article by Ian Roberts, former pro rugby player, highlighted this fact nicely. He describes that he noticed his memory began ‘acting up’ when he was seven years into his second career, acting. He simply couldn’t get the dialogue down, and realized he was no longer ‘sharp, confident’. He eventually left his career in LA and returned to his home in Sydney where he met a professor who was studying the neurophysiology of sport-related concussion. He agreed to be one of 25 former pro players in the study.
All of the players were out of the sport for at least 15-20 years. The control group was 25 men who had never played contact sport. They were given all kinds of cognitive tests to perform. The rugby players all came out with much poorer scores than the control group. Mr. Roberts argues that this is the time to call concussion what it is – brain damage. It is a stark and scary term. Her argues that calling it head trauma or concussion minimizes the truth of what it is.
Dr. Pearce has gone on to publish his findings in the Journal of Brain Injury. He found that:
“Compared to controls, dexterity and visuomotor reaction time was slower in the rugby group compared to controls... The rugby group also demonstrated poorer cognitive performance than controls…These findings of motor and cognitive changes, along with neurophysiological alterations…nearly two decades post-concussion provides evidence for long term sequelae for athletes with a history of repeated head trauma in contact sports.”
These results should be disturbing to the coaches and sports leagues across the world, particularly in highly physical sports. The obvious sports, hockey, football, soccer, rugby, in which repeated blows and concussions are common are now being joined by other sports such as volleyball in which the increased strength of athletes has resulted in significant increases in concussion rates.
Concussion is brain damage. Whether it comes from a car accident, a fall on a bike, from sports, battlefield scenarios, or a fight, it is serious, and it represents brain damage. You should protect yourself from concussion, and if you suspect that you or someone you know or play with is concussed you should seek medical care immediately.