Head injuries

By: Jim Linsdau Placer Herald/News Messenger Sports Editor
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We’re entering the fall season and that means sporting activity will increase even beyond the baseball, softball, swimming, and diving now wrapping up from the summer. The following isn’t the most pleasant subject to have to consider at this time, but doctors suggest players, coaches, and parents be aware of the possibility of head injuries. Dr. Bruce Kaler of U.S. HealthWorks, an organization with 156 occupational medical worksite centers in 14 states, including one in Rocklin, recently released his report on traumatic brain injury (TBI) indicating concussions occur in sports more frequently than previously thought. He states there are more than 300,000 brain injuries in sports each year, and about 60,000 of those are among high school athletes. Although a serious head injury is of concern, Dr. Kaler points out that less severe blows to the head that occur more frequently can be just as significant. “What kind of problems develop depend on what portion of the brain is affected, the severity of the blow, the number of repeated blows to the head, pre-existing conditions of the individual, and personality traits of the injured person,” Kaler wrote. Since head and brain injury isn’t uncommon in virtually all sports, it’s important to be aware if someone has suffered such a hit, and the steps taken to allow for healing. For this reason Dr. Kaler recommends a health-care provider examine any and all such injuries, or subsequent symptoms, to ensure when the athlete has completely recovered and can return to competition. “Immediate symptoms that require removal from sports activities include amnesia, poor balance, headaches, dizziness, or other neurologic deficits, regardless of how quickly they subside on the sidelines,” Kaler stated. “Long-term problems may take several years or more to fully develop.” Although football is the first thing that comes to mind when considering head injury, football ranks second to bicycle injuries – by half. Somewhat ironic since both call for the wearing of a helmet; however, when one considers how many football players and bicycle riders there are, the numbers aren’t quite so surprising. Third and fourth on the list are baseball and softball combined, and basketball; soccer ranks fifth. For children 14 and younger, soccer is in seventh place behind things like water sports, skateboards and scooters. Things to look for in the event of possible TBI: problems with memory, concentration, speech impediments, headaches, and other neurological issues. Dr. Kaler recommends proper fundamentals and technique in training athletes to help prevent head injuries from occurring. I’m pleased to say the sports I’ve covered so far indicate an awareness of the problem and have taken steps in the right direction. After all, an active life is a better life and sports are here to stay. But being aware helps all of us keep our heads in the game.