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Hannah Reed

Instructor: Malcolm Campbell

UWRT 1104

05 April 2018

Sports-Related Concussions: What Can Happen in the Long Run?

Introduction

Imagine this; you’re the goalie for the varsity lacrosse team. The team is running and

shooting drills. You take a few hits to the head and start to get a splitting headache. You start

feeling nauseas. Then you start losing your footing. Chances are you have a concussion. A

concussion is traumatic brain damage that is caused from a hard hit to the head or having your

upper body shaken, causing the brain to move inside your skull. If you end up with numerous

concussions during a sports season, it can cause permanent brain damage over time. Suffering

from multiple concussions has led to players ending up with dementia, ALS, Parkinson’s disease,

and CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy) (Sullivan). When participating in sports you are

required to take a baseline test before the sports season begins. These tests are the most accurate

when it comes to seeing what an athlete is like pre-injury and are good for two sports seasons

(Covassin).

Sports Concussions and Concussion Protocols in the Major Leagues

The first sentence of the last paragraph describes exactly how I ended up with a

concussion. Previously in my junior year of high school I had to take the ImPACT test because
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of starting a sport in the school system. In the CCPS (Charles County Public Schools) system, we

were required to take the baseline test before we could participate in any sport. When I got my

concussion I was miserable. My concussion was considered a “mild” one. I can only imagine

how some of the NFL and NHL players feel when they are out for weeks at a time due to a major

concussion. That’s probably why some players lie about their symptoms at first.

NHL Washington Capitals right wing, TJ Oshie took a hit during the game against the

San Jose Sharks on December 4 ,2017. At the time of the injury the Capitals had been through 28

games and Oshie had missed a total of 14 games. He was out for 4 of the 14 games due to a

concussion (Khurshundyan). Oshie only missed those four games due to that concussion and is

back on the ice today.

NHL Pittsburgh Penguins Center, Sidney Crosby, has had a total of 4 concussions in his

NHL career (SN). During his most recent concussion in May 2017, he was in game three of the

second-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals. Crosby took a cross-check from

Capitals defenseman, Matt Niskanen. He ended up only missing game four and was able to

return in game five (NBCSports). Crosby’s return was pretty quick. In the NHL Concussion

Protocol there is no set time limit on how long a player must be out before being allowed to

return to play.

The NHL, NFL, NBA and MLB all have concussion protocols that are all along the same

guidelines. They have the players baseline test pre-concussion. After the concussion symptoms

pass they have the player re-take the test to see how the player is post-concussion and if they are

able to return to play.


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After my concussion symptoms had passed I had to take a second baseline test to make

sure I was able to start the return to play process. The return to play process took me about five

days, each day was a different type of exercise to make sure my symptoms were truly gone.

Some Sports aren’t as Prone to Concussions?

MLB concussions aren’t that common, but catchers are always at risk of getting them. In

2011 at the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Socks game, A.J. Pierzynski hit a pitch right into

catcher, Alex Avila’s face mask. People say it was an unforgettable game. After Avila took the

pitch to the face, the address system started blasting the song “Ring My Bell” (CBS Sports),

Minnesota Twins Catcher Jason Castro played with a titanium mask up until he sustained a

concussion. After that he switched to a magnesium mask. Baseball concussions are mostly

looked over because they aren’t as common as those in contact sports such as hockey and

football. Baseball concussions have had numerous cases where they have ruined a career. Joe

Mauer , Justin Morneau, Pete Reiser, Jason LaRue, Corey Koskie, John Jaso, Jason Bay, and

Ryan Freel all received numerous concussions while playing baseball. Do to the numerous

concussions, all of their brains showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This is also

known as CTE. Later on I will go into more detail on CTE. To obtain a concussion in baseball

numerous times has to be from a strike of bad luck. As I mention before, it’s not that common to

hear of a baseball player getting a concussion.

As stated earlier on, MLB and NBA concussions aren’t as common as NFL or NHL

concussions. Although, there have been a few. In 2015; Warriors Klay Thompson got kneed in

the head by Houston’s Trevor Ariza. The initial hit caused Thompson pain but he was able to

get up and walk off the court almost instantly according to the video of the hit. Thompson didn’t
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have any symptoms until after the game. With the injury he was still able to score 20 points

during that game. Once Thompson started having concussion symptoms and was officially

diagnosed with a concussion he had to start following the NBA’s concussion protocol.

The NBA’s concussion protocol starts with the removal from participation. Once

removed the player goes through multiple evaluations; the first one being the concussion

evaluation, the second being the serial evaluation. If the player does indeed have a concussion

they are prohibited from playing in the game. Within 24 hours after the injury a player must be

looked at by a physician due to the fact that concussion symptoms don’t always start showing

right after the injury. As stated earlier on sports leagues use a baseline test that the players took

prior to the start of the season to help diagnose the player’s neurological and cognitive state.

Baseline Testing

ImPACT testing is a computerized neurocognitive test that helps in evaluating sport-

related concussions. The test provides the most accurate representation of an athlete pre-injury

(Covassin). The ImPACT test can test attention span, working memory, sustained and selected

attention time, non-verbal problem solving, and reaction time. ImPACT is the only FDA cleared

aid in assessing a concussion (ImPACT Applications).

Long-Term Issues and Outcomes

As stated earlier on athletes who suffered from multiple concussions are now suffering

from multiple brain diseases, CTE being one of them. CTE is chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Junior Seau, former NFL linebacker committed suicide back in 2012. His suicide was linked to
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CTE according to the National Institutes of Health (Belson, Pilon) . 99% of deceased NFL

players were found to have CTE. CTE is marked by a buildup of un-normal tau proteins (CNN) .

Tau proteins are proteins that help with stabilizing microtubules (Mandal). Through

looking at tau proteins I found it is also linked to Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a form of

dementia. Dementia is another term for memory loss (What Is Alzheimer’s) .

Dementia was another one of the things that athletes who suffered from multiple head

injuries have to deal with in the long run. Dementia is not specified as a disease. It’s more a

group of symptoms. Along with memory problems, dementia reduces the ability to perform

everyday task (What Is Dementia). My grandmother has dementia. She’s at the point sometimes

she doesn’t even remember that I’ve gone away to college. I am six hours away from home.

Dementia starts out slow and gradually gets worse. These are just a few of the long-term effects

multiple concussions can cause.

Players Lying About Symptoms

I briefly mentioned previously that players have lied about having a concussion just to

stay in the game. Former Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman, James Wisniewski went head first

into the boards during the sixth game of the first- round playoff series against Pittsburgh. He

claimed he didn’t feel well during game six and said his back hurt so he wouldn’t have to go

through the 20 minute evaluation (The Atlantic). You can see why a player would lie about that

just to stay in the game (especially if its playoffs), but it’s not a safe thing to do.

Conclusion
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Concussions are a traumatic brain injury that shouldn’t be taken as a joke or lied about.

Major league sports clubs have protocols to help an athlete get back to normal after a concussion.

Concussions can take away things that people love to do but they need take a step back to

recover from head trauma. Sports clubs judge if an athlete has a concussion using a baseline test,

i.e. ImPACT Test. If athletes don’t take care of themselves when it comes to trying to prevent

multiple concussions it can cause serious issues over the long run.
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Work Cited

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catcher-concussions-and-mlbs-battle-to-do-better-with-head-trauma/.

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www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp.

Association, Alzheimer's. “Dementia | Signs, Symptoms & Diagnosis.” Alzheimer's Association,

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Bell, Stephania. “Analyzing MLB's Concussion Policy.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 1 Apr.

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Boruk, John, et al. “NHL Playoffs: Sidney Crosby Returns for Penguins after Concussion.” NBC

Sports Philadelphia, 6 May 2017, www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/philadelphia-

flyers/nhl-playoffs-sidney-crosby-returns-penguins-after-concussion.

Committee, NFL Head, Neck, and Spine. NFL Head, Neck, and Spine Committee's Protocols

Regarding
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