Dr. Arthur Day teaches neurosurgery to a new generation of doctors. Here he continues his discussion of the connection between sports and brain injuries.
Football historically contributes more to the incidence of head injuries than any other team sport. The rules of football, as well as ever-increasing competition for scholarships, lead players to undertake incredibly risky moves, leading to around 47,000 head injuries a year. Moreover, the sheer force of a hit in football jolts the head with incredible intensity. Repeated blows not only increase the possibility that a player will experience a traumatic neurological injury, but also make it more likely that he might suffer problems related to second impact syndrome.
About 300,000 football players receive medical treatment each year for concussions. However, experts believe that many more concussion incidents go unreported. Professional football players often experience tackles with more than 1600 pounds of force. In most cases, traumatic neurological injuries resulting in incomplete recovery occur at the high school level. Sports regulatory organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association update rules regarding safety on a regular basis, but officials do not always hands down penalties for such conduct as head-down and helmet-to-helmet contact. In addition, the nature of football means that players are required to block, tackle, and hit members of the opposing team.
Today, players who have experienced significant head injuries are excluded from play. While this helps keep players with documented prior brain damage from undergoing second impact syndrome, it could also mean that incidences of head injury go unreported by coaches, parents, and players because of competition for opportunities to be seen by college or professional scouts.
Although cheerleading has traditionally been considered an extracurricular activity with a minor chance of severe injury, the evolution of this sport requires participants to perform extremely difficult gymnastic and acrobatic stunts. Human error, prior injury, and other factors lead more often to traumatic neurological injuries than in the past.
About Dr. Day: A Professor of Neurosurgery and the Vice Chair and Director of Clinical Education in Neurosurgery at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Dr. Day performs brain and spine surgery and trains young surgeons in practice. A highly acclaimed expert in the field of neurosurgery, Dr. Day lectures and writes articles on the subject.