Concussions are quickly becoming one of the most talked about injuries in sports. News about elite athletes like Aaron Rodgers and Sidney Crosby sustaining concussions, and about new rules to protect players, dominate the daily sports headlines—and for good reason. Concussions are serious business, and if improperly treated, they can lead to debilitating long-term health consequences.
STACK recently spoke with Sports Legacy Institute president Chris Nowinski and Michigan NeuroSport director Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, two of the nation’s leading concussion researchers and prevention advocates. In a six-part video series, they provide an in-depth overview of concussions, common symptoms, general recovery guidelines and long-term effects—all in hopes of increasing awareness and understanding of this increasingly common injury.
Nowinski and Kutcher define a concussion as a rapid acceleration and deceleration of the brain caused by contact or a blow to the head. Concussions produce communication issues among neurons in the brain. Thus, symptoms include headache, dizziness, confusion, ringing ears, vision problems, nausea, fatigue, irritability and memory loss.
Concussions are often associated with loss of consciousness, but Kutcher says that this occurs in only about 10 percent of concussions.
The key fact about concussions for athletes is that if you take enough time to allow your brain to recover, you can return to pre-injury status. “All of the guys that I know [who] had to retire early returned to play too soon,” says Nowinski. “It’s better to miss one or two games than to be the guy who tried to fight through it and loses his career, can’t play any more and gets a headache every time he works out.”
Although concussions are most common in contact sports such as football and hockey, it's important to understand that athletes in all sports are at risk. “The sports that we play are by nature fast,” says Kutcher. “Athletes are moving fast, objects are moving fast, and they are going to come into contact with someone’s head.”
It’s probably impossible to eliminate concussions from sports; however, athletes can help to prevent them by wearing properly-fitted helmets and doing their best to avoid head-to-head contact. If a concussion is suspected, an athlete should immediately report symptoms to a coach, trainer or parent. We understand that the desire to be on the field for the next play can be overwhelming, but the long-term consequences are not worth the price.
For a comprehensive discussion of concussions, view STACK's six-part video series featuring Nowinski and Kutcher.
Episode 1: What is a Concussion?
Episode 2: Concussion Experiences
Episode 3: Concussion Prevention
Episode 4: Concussion Dangers for All Athletes
Episode 5: Long-Term Concussion Effects
Episode 6: Concussion Recovery and Baseline Testing