September 26, 2005

Injured Players Shouldn’t Risk Second Concussion

NEW YORK -- For high school athletes who sustain a head injury, playing hurt "for the team" is more often dangerous than heroic.

That's one of the main messages contained in Heads Up: Concussion in High School Sports, a multimedia educational tool kit developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to raise awareness and help coaches of high school teams prevent concussions, spot symptoms, and know what to do should an athlete show signs of a concussion.

The centerpiece of the tool kit, according to CDC, is a video depicting a high school football player who was permanently disabled after suffering a second concussion while playing hurt during a game. From this player's perspective, it's better to miss one game than to miss an entire season or the promise of a healthy future.

This player's experience also highlights a rare but potentially fatal condition called second-impact syndrome that can occur when an athlete who has suffered a concussion experiences a second blow while the brain is still vulnerable. The second blow does not have to be very strong for its effects to be deadly or permanently disabling, health officials warn.

It is estimated that more than 300,000 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries occur in the US each year. "Concussions can happen to any athlete, male or female, in any sport and they should never be ignored," Dr. Ileana Arias, director of the injury center at CDC, said in a statement.

This new tool kit provides coaches and parents with a "common sense approach" to concussions.

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that occurs when a blow jostles the brain inside the skull, stretching and sometimes tearing nerve cells. Concussions can range from mild to severe and can disrupt normal brain function.

The signs and symptoms of concussion, which can be subtle, include headaches or neck pain that wont' go away; dizziness/nausea; impaired balance; difficulty with remembering, concentrating, or making decisions; slowness in thinking, speaking, acting or reading; getting lost or easily confused; fatigue, lack of energy or motivation; changes in mood, sleep patterns; sensitivity to light; blurred vision; loss of sense of smell or taste; and ringing in the ears.

To prevent potentially life-changing and life-threatening concussions, CDC encourages coaches, athlete directors, parents and teens to:

-Use the right protective equipment at all times.

-Know the signs and symptoms of concussion.

-Make sure the school has a concussion action plan.

-Keep athletes with known or suspected concussion from play until a doctor has given the green light to play again.

The Heads Up tool kit can be downloaded free of charge at