Healthy Blog

Long Term Effects of Concussion

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A concussion isn’t a quick injury that can be forgotten about. Research has shown that the impact of traumatic brain injuries on athletes can last for two years after having the concussion. What’s more, athletes with concussion can suffer abnormal brainwaves as well as deterioration of nerves that control motor functioning.

This damage isn’t necessarily apparent as soon as the injury is endured but the side effects can in fact last for decades.

Long-Term Damage From Concussion is more Persistent in Older Athletes

Studies have been done on the brains of senior athletes who last suffered a concussion a minimum of 30 years ago. The results were compared to healthy people who had never had concussion. It was found that head traumas cause lasting effects which are pretty similar to the early signs of Parkinson’s disease; memory problems and attention and motor difficulties.

What’s more, the research showed that older athlete’s brains seem to “thin out” which is consistent with what happens in Alzheimer’s patients. The thinning tends to go hand in hand with attention and memory decline, say experts.

More Studies

Another study set out to examine the brains of a couple of retired football players, after the death of Junior Seau. The footballer experienced memory loss, depression and a host of other issues just before he committed suicide.

Studies of his brain as well as those of other players revealed that there was evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or CTE). This is a condition which seems to be prevalent in many retired NFL players. Symptoms tend to include loss of memory; serious illnesses; depression; progressive dementia and even changes in personality.

Helmets Do Help – But They’re Not the Perfect Solution

In previous years there’s been a great deal of debate over the level of safety in both amateur and professional sports – particularly the likes of ice hockey, football and soccer. A lot of American sports organisations have gone to lengths to come up with policies addressing head injuries and thankfully there has been a reduction in the number of concussions. 

Concussions in Hockey

Here’s an example: during the 2011 hockey league season, 128 concussions were experienced. This was in fact a 9% decrease from the last season. It was also the first year, reports USA Today, that players were checked out by a team doctor once they’d had a head injury and it was the doctor who got the say as to whether or not the player could return to the ice.

Hockey’s not always been that safe though. During the 1930s, National Hockey League (NHL) fans would taunt and boo at players who wore helmets. It took a long eleven years for the NHL to make helmet-wearing mandatory for players and this came after Minnesota North Stars centre, Bill Masterton died from a head trauma during a 1968 game. To date, Masterton in the only player to have passed away playing in the NHL.

But hockey is a fast paced and testosterone fuelled tough sport and even with helmets being mandatory, too many honkey players are still vulnerable to painful hits. Including times when they throw of their gloves and start arguing with one another to the delight of the fans.

Sure, tough players can take a hit but the effects of repetitive jarring on the head and brain is coming to light through more and more medical research.

National Football League

To date, around 400 formal NFL players are actually suing to the football league with claims that the organisation has failed to protect or inform players of the long-term effects of brain damage.

Concussion Shouldn’t Be Taken Lightly

Old and young athletes alike shouldn’t be participating in matches until all symptoms of concussion have completely cleared.

Concussion isn’t something to be taken lightly and former players should be monitored, too, to ensure they’re not prematurely aging from the long-term effects of concussion.