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September 26, 2013

Take signs of concussions seriously

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Cooperstown Crier

---- — As the fall sports season heats up, we want to remind coaches, parents and athletes to take signs of concussions seriously.

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 baseline testing for Cooperstown Central School, says an estimated four to five million concussions occur annually, with increases emerging among middle school athletes.

Head injuries, including concussions, can happen at any time on the field of play, regardless of the type of helmet being worn. Any claims suggesting that a particular helmet is “anti-concussive” or “concussion-proof” may be misleading and potentially dangerous by giving players and parents a false sense of security.

While football may seem like the most obvious sport linked to concussions, it is not the only sport that can result in one. Coaches, parents and all athletes should form strategies to help reduce the risk of injury, including: Learning and recognizing symptoms of a concussion, minimizing head-to-head hits on the field and enforcing stronger and stricter penalties against such behavior.

Last year, 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 prevents students from returning to play until they have been without symptoms for at least 24 hours and have been cleared by a physician. It also requires education and training for coaches, teachers and other school personnel on the symptoms and treatment of mild traumatic brain injuries.

Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness and recognition so proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or death.