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March 2, 2012

Our Opinion: Taking concussions seriously

— Traumatic brain injury is a serious public health problem in the United States. Each year, it contributes to a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability. Recent data shows that, on average, about 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury annually. It is becoming a national concern!

Concussions should not go unnoticed or more importantly untreated. What may seem like nothing could turn out to be much more than that.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, traumatic brain injury is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a traumatic brain injury.

The website says the severity of a traumatic brain injury “may range from ‘mild,’ i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to ‘severe,’ i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. The majority of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild TBI.”

A concussion is a disturbance in brain function that occurs following either a blow to the head or as a result of the violent shaking of the head. A concussion can change the way a brain normally works. The website for ImPACT, the organization that provides the baseline testing Cooperstown Central School will be using to evaluate concussions says the annual incidence of sports-related concussion is estimated at 300,000 in the United States.

It also says estimates regarding the likelihood of an athlete in a contact sport experiencing a concussion may be as high as 19 percent per season. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention, 47 percent of high school football players suffer from concussions every year.

In September, Gov. Andrew Cuomo got on board by signing a bill that requires students who may have suffered a concussion in a school sport or gym class to be sidelined for at least 24 hours. The legislation will prevent students from returning to play until they have been without symptoms for at least one day and have been cleared by a physician. It also requires education and training for coaches, teachers  and other school personnel on the symptoms and treatmentof mild traumatic brain injuries. The NFL is also tackling this problem and is backing the bill. It has also cracked down on helmet-to-helmet hits.

A protective helmet cannot fit atop the brain, so concussions never are completely preventable. According to the CDC, most concussions occur without loss of consciousness and recognition and proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or death.

Baseline testing for students is a good idea  especially for those playing high-contact sports. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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