Young Athletes Risk Serious Injury By Playing Post-TBI

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When people think about concussions or traumatic brain injury, the most widely held assumption is that it requires hitting your head against something else, whether it be the ground, or the inside of a helmet during a collision. That is what Blake Lee thought.

The 17-year-old was in the middle of a soccer game in 2011 when a player collided with Blake. The opponent broke his femur, but Lee believed he was fine. He never hit his head, and his body felt okay to keep playing, but he started having headaches.

The headaches continued for weeks, and when Blake went to see a doctor, he was told he had a sinus infection. Total, it took two and a half weeks from the injury for him to be diagnosed with a concussion. That is two and a half weeks Blake was also practicing and participating in soccer and lacrosse games.

The worst news was yet to come for Blake, until he was informed he should immediately take a break from the field and school to recover. He was laid up for two months before doctors even gave him permission to resume schoolwork.

Like many athletes, Blake considered ignoring his doctor’s orders, despite being in significant pain. “I didn’t want to be told I couldn’t do anything,” he told Bakersfield Now.

A study from last year, lead by Dr. Sara Chrisman, a specialist in adolescent medicine from University of Washington, saw that even student athletes that are very aware of the symptoms and long-term effects of traumatic brain injury and the heightened dangers of repeated injuries still were unlikely to report possible brain injuries to coaches.

Girls were even less likely than males to report concussion symptoms, likely because they feared being seen as weak. “Girls need to be tough to be in sports,” Chrisman said. “They need to show they are able to handle it.”

The decision to hide symptoms is made easier because brain injury clouds people’s ability to think, and players receiving a head injury are often disoriented, and may not be able to even tell they are suffering symptoms at first.

While the first concussion is rarely a serious injury, side effects can be dangerous, and repeated concussions increase in severity with every injury, especially when in close succession.

Raised TBI awareness and education for coaches is essential in helping identify players who may have suffered brain injury, and they are responsible for pulling players who may be injured. Unfortunately, the more high stakes the game is, the less likely coaches are to keep a valued player of the field.

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