Although helmets and mouthguards help ward off serious head and craniofacial injuries, there is not enough adequate evidence to support they prevent concussions.
Paradoxically, an overly confident trust in safety equipment encourages athletes (players) to take more audacious risks, based on the Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport, published in the Prevention and Health Protection (IPHP) issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The latest version of the Consensus Statement, which is backed by the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, the International Equestrian Federation, and the International Rugby Board, was drawn up after a two day meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, in November last year.
Researchers were invited to present their latest findings on concussive brain injuries, which have the potential to cause long term neurological damage if not dealt with appropriately.
The panel agreed mouthguards and helmets have a role in minimizing injuries and are to be recommended but emphasizes there is no good clinical evidence that available protective equipment will prevent a concussion.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head or body, a fall, a violent vehicular collision, or any activity that jars or shakes the brain inside the skull. Visible signs of a concussion or a brain injury may not be immediately visible the way scratches and bruises alert one to harm.
There are many ways to get a concussion. Some common ways include fights, falls, playground injuries, car crashes, and bike accidents. Concussions can also happen while participating in any sport or activity such as football, boxing, rugby, hockey, horse riding, soccer, and skiing. Given the risk of permanent problems, it is important to seek immediate medical attention if a concussion is suspected.
The brain, the epicenter of the nervous system, is a soft three pound organ suspended in cerebrospinal fluid, which acts as a cushion between the organ and the hard interior of the skull. If the head is jarred or hit with enough force, the brain can jostle about, causing potentially serious injuries to the cerebral cortex and subcortical structures.
Damage to the cerebral cortex can result in a coma, a state of unconsciousness lasting more than six hours in which a person fails to normally respond to painful stimuli, light, or sound. While comatose, the victim lacks a normal sleep-wake cycle and does not initiate voluntary actions. A comatose state can be persistent or permanent depending upon the degree of injury. A concussion can precede a coma.
Some obvious symptoms of a concussion include passing out or forgetting what transpired leading up to and immediately before the injury. With rest, most people fully recover from a concussion within a few hours to a few weeks. Symptoms can be mild to severe, lasting for hours to months. Failure to remember details, fuzzy thinking, an inability to concentrate, headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light or noise, and balance problems may suggest a possible concussion following a seemingly traumatic head injury.
In rare cases concussions cause more serious problems. Repeated concussions, as acquired from sustaining continuous blows in boxing or football, or a severe concussion may require surgery or lead to long-lasting problems with mobility, cognition, and communication. Concussive injuries to the brain can lead to an early onset of dementia.
Proper identification and prompt treatment of concussive symptoms is essential, and prevention is equally important.
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