The day every sports player dreads is they day they hear their time as an athlete is over. For many, it means they can no longer engage in the sports they love. But if a player’s career is cut short because of a concussion, there is a positive trade-off–one that’s far more important than staying on for another season. By hanging up your jersey, you are protecting your brain from further, and possibly life-altering, damage.
Why hang up the jersey after a concussion? To avoid having another one! Repeat concussions can decrease a person’s quality of life when the resulting symptoms accumulate as post-concussive syndrome (PCS). Headaches, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, loss of concentration and memory, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light and sound are all aspects of PCS that may drastically reduce a person’s ability to complete the most basic tasks of daily living. On top of that, cognitive impairments and behavioral/personality changes make a PCS sufferer’s internal experience unfamiliar and distressing–it can sometimes feel like they have “someone else’s brain.” These disorienting symptoms may last months or even years after the initial concussion has taken place.
According to the Brain Injury Association of America, if symptoms persist or worsen in the two to three weeks after a concussion, it’s time to be referred to a concussion specialist. Improper treatment and management can result in a slower recovery time, and returning to normal activity too quickly puts your brain at risk.
My story is an perfect example of this–my doctors even admit that I suffer from daily symptoms three and half years later because they mishandled my case. I was pushed back to school too soon and had inadequate rest during my recovery. The backlash of this was an exacerbation of my symptoms that caused me to miss three months of school, then half days for a number of months.
Are you willing to take a gamble that you probably won’t have another concussion, and thinking “why worry about PCS?” Like so many things in life, seemingly-insignificant bumps and bruises can add up to a major problem. Continual hits to the head may result in long-lasting neurological and brain damage, including the chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) you may have seen recently in news surrounding the NFL. These hits can be so small that they go unnoticed, undetected, and do not classify as concussions; however, they can be just as dangerous if they’re exacerbating an initial injury. You could almost say these “minor” bumps are… silent but deadly.
When is enough enough? That is for you and your doctor to determine. The main question to consider is what the consequences of continuing to play could be, both in the short and long term. Which is more beneficial, playing the sport and continually causing brain damage or retiring your jersey before the brain damage you already have becomes worse?
My advice is this: if you or someone you know has lingering symptoms from a concussion, ask your primary care or neurologist about a referral to a concussion specialist or clinic. Listen to these experts and get the rest you need, even if this has to mean it’s time retire from sports. The potential brain damage isn’t worth it.
Please share this post and help COVD spread awareness for Brain Injury Awareness Month! Thank you for reading my messages this month and play safe!