New Wave of Athletes Come Forward About Concussions In a Sport You Wouldn’t Expect



By Pierre-Yves Beaudouin / Wikimedia Commons

Written by Tyven Gabriner

In the sports community, the topic of concussions has been increasingly gaining traction as more and more athletes have come forward about their struggles with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). I have seen many athletes on the news, like Eugene Monroe, retire from the NFL to avoid brain injury. After reading a New York Times article about synchronized swimming, I realized these athletes are at risk of brain injury even though they don’t get a lot of media coverage. Though many sports like football, hockey, and soccer have had increasing attention around this subject, no light has been shed on the risk of concussions in synchronized swimming.

In synchronized swimming, a group of swimmers perform a set of elaborate and synchronized dance moves underwater including diving, dancing, and even throwing teammates out of the water. These athletes often get so close to each other when performing their routines that they accidentally kick, hit, and fall into one another. What seems to be a very harmless sport is actually surprisingly hazardous.

Bill Moreau, the managing director for sports medicine for the United States Olympic Committee said that one half of all the synchronized swimmers he has seen have sustained a concussion. Myriam Glez, the chief executive of the national organization of synchronized swimming stated, “100 percent of my athletes will get a concussion at some point. It might be minor, might be more serious, but at some point or another, they will get hit.”

After a certain point, these injuries can lead to a serious problem that goes beyond just head trauma. Athletes like Mariya Koroleva, a synchro swimmer on the US Olympic team, have had to recover from head trauma for a month before re-entering the pool. Sarah Urke, an aspiring US synchro swimmer had to retire from the sport entirely because of severe head trauma. She claims that the pool is like “a battlefield” underwater because the risk of head trauma is so high.

Headcase, an organization consisting of parents that want to protect young athletes from sustaining cumulative concussions, learned that concussions reported in the United States have more than doubled since 2002. They also reported that 1 in 5 high school athletes will have a concussion every season and 39% will sustain cumulative concussions which are shown to increase catastrophic head injury leading to permanent neurologic disability.

Important Sports Concussion Statistics (Per Headcase Company):

  • 3,800,000 concussions reported in 2012, double what was reported in 2002

  • 33% of all sports concussions happen during practice

  • 39% — the amount by which cumulative concussions are shown to increase catastrophic head injury leading to permanent neurologic disability

  • 47% of all reported sports concussions occur during high school football

  • 1 in 5 high school athletes will sustain a sports concussion during the season

  • 33% of high school athletes who have had a sports related concussion report two or more in the same year

  • Currently, 4 to 5 million concussions occur annually, with rising numbers among middle school athletes

  • 90% of most diagnosed concussions do not involve a loss of consciousness

  • An estimated 5.3 million Americans live with a traumatic brain injury-related disability (CDC)

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