Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 9:20 EDT

National Attention of Traumatic Brain Injuries Among Pro Athletes Prompts UCF Pegasus Health Physician to Advise Parents How to Protect Younger Players

September 7, 2012

ORLANDO, Fla., Sept. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — The risks of sports-related traumatic brain injuries among professional athletes is making national headlines. However, prevention should begin at childhood, especially among those involved in contact sports.

“Each year, approximately 300,000 people in the United States experience sports-related concussions,” said Leonardo Oliveira, M.D., Assistant Professor, UCF College of Medicine, who specializes in internal medicine and sports medicine at the college’s faculty practice, UCF Pegasus Health. “Of particular concern are those involved in contact sports, like football and soccer, whose chances of concussions may be as high as 19 percent per season.”

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury most often caused by a sudden bump or blow to the head or other parts of the body. It also can be caused by a fall. As a result of the sudden impact, the brain moves around in the skull causing chemical changes. These changes make the brain more sensitive to stress and other injuries until it fully recovers. In addition, the immature brain of a young athlete is known to take longer to recover and requires specialized medical attention.

It is important to recognize the warning signs for concussions, said Dr. Oliveira, and seek medical attention immediately for the following conditions:

  • Headache/neck pain
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Poor balance
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Dazed or stunned behavior
  • Amnesia

“Most people who have experienced a concussion realize that something is wrong,” said Dr. Oliveira. “However, the symptoms can be tricky, so those around the injured person must pay close attention for the warning signs. This is especially apparent among football players who are conditioned to being knocked down and getting back up again, only to realize later that they’ve been hurt.”

Gary Preisser, athletic director for Orange County Public Schools, said all Orange County athletes who participate in “high risk” sports must have a baseline neurocognitive test before their first contact football practice, within the first week of cheerleading or before the first game for other sports.

Dr. Oliveira said, “Difficulty concentrating in school and completing tasks is an immediate effect of a head injury and can sometimes be the only sign. If not treated quickly and appropriately, it can have significant consequences, including poor school performance.”

Other warning signs parents and coaches should monitor include changes in behavior, worsening headache, persistent double vision, excessive drowsiness or stroke-like symptoms (i.e., difficulty moving a limb, speech or facial droop). These warrant an evaluation by the closest emergency department.

Although treatment for concussions is individualized, he said, most all physicians recommend physical and mental rest immediately after the injury. This includes no texting, video games, TV, reading or physical activity. It’s also important to understand that medications will mask the pain and do not heal the brain. In fact, anti-inflammatory medications can be dangerous because they increase the risk of bleeding. However, there are situations where medications are warranted.

“It is paramount to have an evaluation and obtain clearance by a physician experienced in diagnosing and treating concussions before returning to sports activities,” said Dr. Oliveira.

About UCF Pegasus Health
As part of the UCF College of Medicine, UCF Pegasus Health was developed as a way to provide individualized, multidisciplinary health care based on the latest medical advancements. Staffed by faculty physicians, patients can receive primary and specialized care at our medical facility located at 3400 Quadrangle Blvd., Orlando, FL 32817. Specialties include sports medicine, internal medicine, infectious disease, cardiology & cardiovascular testing, geriatrics, rheumatology, neurology and nephrology. For more information call (407) 266-DOCS or visit www.UCFPegasusHealth.org.

Karen Phillips – (407) 474-6488, Karen@AndersonPhillips.com
Kevin Fritz – (321) 662-8191, Kevin@FritzComm.com

SOURCE UCF Pegasus Health/UCF College of Medicine

Source: PR Newswire