Young Athletes at Risk for Post Concussion Syndrome

Nancy Harris Bonk Health Guide
  • Researchers just released a study in the medical journal, Neurosurgery, revealing that teen athletes who have suffered two or more concussions may already show signs of post concussion syndrome. Six hundred sixteen student athletes from three states were split into three groups, completed pre and post concussion (when applicable) questionnaires, had neuropsychological testing, and gave researchers detailed information about their concussion symptoms. The first group experienced one concussion; the second group had two or more concussions, and group three had no concussions. In addition, there were no concussive incidents reported by the athletes in the four months prior to the study.

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    The study surmised student athletes with two or more concussions were more likely to have an array of post concussive symptoms such as cognitive issues, physical concerns, and sleeping problems. These "clusters" of symptoms included feeling "foggy" and short-term memory issues; headache, balance and dizziness; and sleeping too much or too little. These symptoms lead researchers to speculate that two or more concussions among young athletes may have damaging, long lasting effects on the brain and even serious emotional disturbances later in life.


    Chris Benoit was a successful professional wrestler who murdered his family and then took his own life in 2007. He seemed to be a devoted father and husband, but started exhibiting some strange behaviors in the weeks before the tragedy. Benoit was not typically religious man, but seemed to became more so near the end of his life. He even began to wear a rosary around his neck, which was out of character for him. His family donated his brain to the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI) where they conduct research on brains looking for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE.) When Benoit's brain was examined he did have CTE, a degenerative brain disorder that accumulates the abnormal protein tau and can only be confirmed at autopsy.  


    The number of former professional athletes who have recently died and suffered multiple concussions has been a focal topic in the news lately. These football players, boxers, and wrestlers seem to have experienced drastic personality and lifestyle changes, impulse control problems, depression, and even dementia before they died. What researchers are finding is that these athletes may be at a higher risk for CTE, in part, due to multiple concussions. 


    More concerns were raised when an 18-year-old high school footballer player accidentally died in 2009. His death wasn't from a violent act or additional head trauma, and his family has kept his cause of death and identity private, but did donate his brain to research. During autopsy, his brain showed early signs of CTE. If young athletes brains are being damaged now, what will they look like when they are in their 40's and 50's?


    This study, combined with the recent deaths of young athletes should serve as a wake-up call to everyone involved in sports; coaches, parents, players, and team management. One of the problems with head injuries in sports (or any injury for that matter) is that players are expected to "shake it off" and stay in the game as long as they can so they aren't looked down upon by their teammates. Football players are supposed to be rough and tough, keep going, and going, keeping their injuries and "little dings" to themselves. If sports continue to be played this way, we are going to have a lot of men with some serious brain disease.  


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    HealthDay. "Multiple Concussions Raise Teen Athlete's health Risks." U.S. News & World Report. January 29, 2011.


    Hohler, Bob. "Major breakthrough in concussion crisis." The Boston Globe. January 27, 2009.


    Schatz, P.; Moser, R.S.; Covassin, T; Karpf, R. "Early Indicators of Enduring Symptoms in High School Athletes with Multiple Previous Concussion." Neurosurgery via PubMed. January 6, 2011.


    Sherwood, Roxanna. ABCNews/Nightline. "Benoit's Dad, Doctors: Multiple Concussions Could Be Connected to Murder-Suicide." September 5, 2007.


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    © The HealthCentral Network, 2011
    Last updated February 4, 2011
Published On: February 04, 2011