Long Term Effects of Concussions After Sport Careers
A concussion is a temporary malfunction in brain mechanism due to head traumas .It can also be distinguished as a MTBI, i.e., mild traumatic brain injury. The brain is protected with fluid in the skull. Due to a sudden mild or severe jolt to the head, the brain is dislocated and may collide with the hard skull. Such dislocation causes changes in neurotransmitters and chemicals in the brain (About Concussions, 2010).
Concussion is an injury, which is usually linked with sports, especially with ice hockey, football, martial arts, and boxing. Repetitive blows to the head or cumulative concussion can cause several serious long-term effects because the brain does not get a proper time to recover completely before another accident which further intensifies the after-effects. According to the reports of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year, almost 1.6 million to 3.8 million sports-related concussions diagnosed in the United States. However, the number might be even higher, as most of the cases remain unreported due to the ignorance among athletes, trainers, family, coaches, and even few health experts about the symptoms and effects of concussion (Cumulative Concussions, 2013).
The purpose of this essay is to analyze overall long-term effects of concussions among the athletes after their sports career.
Recent studies and research on the effects of concussions in sports have shown that even mild concussion can cause severe long-term issues, especially if the athlete is permitted to return to play too early or possesses history of past concussions (Cumulative Concussions, 2013).
One of the most serious direct effects of sports-related concussions is second-impact syndrome. Due to second-impact syndrome, brain swells catastrophically and rapidly after suffering from a second concussion before properly recovering from the previous concussion. Even the mildest level of concussion after few days or even minutes after the previous concussion can cause second-impact syndrome (Cumulative Concussions, 2013). Direct effects of concussion may include memory loss, confusion, disorientation of pupils’ size, dizziness, nausea, headache, tinnitus, and changes in vision. Also, late effects like, memory disturbances, irritability, poor concentration, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and personality changes, can be identified among the patients after their sport careers (Quinn, 2013).
Other Long-Term Effects
Various research and studies have found that effects of concussions can last for decades. According to the research, people who experience concussion with unconsciousness are six times more likely prone to another concussion, compared to those who did not lose consciousness due to concussion. After suffering concussion, the patient’s brain is more susceptible to other injuries. Retrograde amnesia, i.e., the inability to recall pre-injury memories, and anterograde amnesia, i.e., the inability to memorize new information, are often seen among the athletes who were diagnosed with concussion in their sport careers (Concussion: Short and Long-Term Impact, 2012).
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In rare cases, serious neurological deficits such as, internal bleeding in the brain, are identified. Intracranial hemorrhage, i.e., internal bleeding in the brain, is a serious issue which can lead to the increased pressure in the brain. It may cause the brain to dislocate from its position. The patient may suffer with the seizure activity, weakness on one portion of the body, and coma. In such cases, it is required to remove the increasing blood and treat the impaired blood vessels by means of neurosurgery (Concussion: Short and Long-Term Impact, 2012).
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) generates years or decades after the injury. The initial neurological issues related to CTE include memory problems, difficulties in multitasking, impulse control, and depression. Impulse control issues can lead to drug addiction or severe anger problem. Patients are more prone to dementia and Parkinson’s disease (Concussion: Short and Long-Term Impact, 2012).
According to the research of neuropsychologist, Dr. Maryse Lassonde, cognitive impairment is one of the long-term effects of concussion. Lassonde examined the brains of former athletes who suffered their previous concussion more than 30 years ago. After comparing them with healthy people who had not been diagnosed with concussions, she found that the repeated head trauma lead to long-lasting effects, similar to the initial signs of Parkinson’s disease, including attention, memory, and motion problems. Lassonde’s research has further shown that the such former athletes’ brains experienced a certain kind of “thinning” that usually happens in Alzheimer’s patients. Such “thinning” is associated with attention and memory decline (Krans, 2013).
Also, mental health problems, such as chronic anxiety disorder and depression have been reported as the long-term effects of concussion among the athletes. The loss of place in the team, uncertain timeline for recovery, lack of support, or the unrecognizable nature of the injury can trigger several mental issues in the athlete even after the end of sport career. A 2008 Canadian research on professional athletes playing contact sports, suggested that some athletes experience the mental health issues in the moths, years or even decades after a concussion due to the result of pathological and psychological changes in their brains caused by the injury itself. In rare cases, it even leads to the increased suicidal behavior among the patient (Barton, 2013).
Concussion is an important and serious issue among those who are involved in the sports sector. Though, most of the athletes recover completely after a concussion, various research have shown that they might be still prone to the long-term effects of concussion after the end of their sport careers. Such long-term effects include various cognitive, physical, and psychological problems. In order to avoid repeated concussion, patients should not be permitted to return to play until they recover from the injury properly. Also, it is important to encourage further research for the treatment and prevention of concussions, in order to protect the patients from the long-term effects of it.