Even off the ice Sidney Crosby can’t help but make the headlines. Since January 5th of this year, the Pittsburgh Penguin’s captain and Canada’s golden boy has been recovering from concussion, after enduring two massive blows to the head only days apart. Hockey fans, the media, and medical professionals alike are on edge, waiting for the star to recover and wondering what kind of impact this injury will have on the young player’s season and his future career.
More and more medical evidence is showing that concussions (actually a ‘mild traumatic brain injury’), especially multiple concussions, can cause long term problems. In our practice the most common difficulties are difficulty concentrating, problems with sleep, headaches and cognitive fatigue.
The recent suicide of former Chicago Bears safety, Dave Duerson, has also drawn attention to the long-term damage and persistent health problems that can be caused by chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Duerson shot himself in the heart with the hope that his brain would be used to research the long-term effects of concussion on the brain.
Despite the tragedy of Duerson’s suicide and the problems caused to Crosby’s health and career, these cases are drawing much needed attention to an area of brain injury that generally goes unreported or even undiagnosed. The media attention has highlighted to the public, the fact that those involved in amateur and professional sports of all kinds, need to increase their awareness and knowledge of concussions.
Concussion is just another word for brain injury – but people still don’t want to talk about brain injuries. This is, in part, due to a lack of education, but is also due to the inherent difficulty in treating concussions. In a motor vehicle context, a person may have a “mild” or even “moderate” brain injury, but are discharged from hospital because there is no specific treatment. Concussions and brain injuries have various symptoms, and can even occur without the person being knocked out.
The real problem, to be discussed in a later blog, is the variable recovery from concussions. I think that most people would realize that you could have Sidney Crosby over for dinner and have a normal conversation with him, while recognizing that we he can’t go to work. Unfortunately, those we talk to don’t always have that response. They are often treated sceptically, with comments like “it was just a ding to the head”, or “she can get to appointments, why can’t she go back to work”. According to scientific literature approximately 15% of people who have received a brain injury have ongoing symptoms, beyond two years after the incident. We call them the “walking wounded”. For Sydney Crosby, and the rest of Canada, let’s hope he isn’t part of that unlucky group.
- Article from Macleans.ca “The damage done by concussions: Sidney Crosby is a case study in what we know and what we don’t know”
- Article from Examiner.com “Did chronic traumatic encephalopathy drive Dave Duerson to suicide?”
- Brainstreams.ca information on concussions
- Neuroskills.com Special Report: Football Players Need Several Days to Recover From a Concussion
- Neuroskills information on brain injury and concussion