Monday, April 7, 2014
Sports and TBI
I'm going to preface this post by stating that it may be a little bit of a rant. Hopefully, you will hang with me.
My fiance and I were out to lunch with friends, and the St. Louis Blues were playing the Chicago Blackhawks (hockey). We are Blackhawks fans (we are from Chicago). We were excited to watch the game, since both teams are great! My excitement stopped when a fight occurred. Yes, I understand that fights and checking are all part of hockey. What made me upset was that the two players planned it, had it in the middle of a break in the action, threw their gloves and helmets down, and got set up for it. This all happened while the refs were watching. I'm sorry, but HOW do you just stand there and let it happen??? I understand that fights happen a lot during normal play, but this one could EASILY have been stopped. Of course, the fight proceeded, and both men were hit in the head 5 to 10 times a piece.
As a health care professional, this really bothers me. One thing we learned in my cognitive communication disorders class is that getting hit in the head over and over and over again can and will lead to a moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI). This includes punches in hockey, hits in football, etc. I know there has been a push in recent years to reduce the number of hard hits and hits to the head in all sports. What I don't understand is why they allow it to happen when it could have been prevented.
Here's why I'm concerned:
-In 2009, 2.4 million visits to the ER, hospitalizations or death were related to TBI.
-In 2010, the estimated cost of TBI was $76.5 billion (per person in a lifetime).
-TBIs can lead to cognitive, emotional, linguistic, and physical deficits.
-Damage is cumulative.
What about concussions?
Concussions are actually mild TBIs. They are a temporary lapse in brain function and the results look similar (just more mild) than a moderate to severe TBI: emotional, physical, psychological. A person may have a headache for a week or two and some nausea/vomiting, but he/she will return to normal fairly quickly. However, once a person has one concussion, they are more susceptible to another. As they have more and more concussions, the damage adds up. The problem is that a lot the signs and symptoms of TBI may not be present until later in life, when dementia puglistica occurs for example. Just look at the sad reality of what happened to Muhammad Ali years later.
I'm not going to say that I don't approve of contact sports, because that is just not true. I LOVE football. I like hockey. I did gymnastics when I was younger. The aggression and danger is just a part of sports. However, steps should be taken to protect the athletes. I know they are trying, but the incident during this weekend's game was proof that they are not trying nearly as hard as maybe they should.
I don't know. I don't have the answers. It's just hard for me to watch as punches to the head are thrown over and over and over again.