Dr. Curtis Cripe Health Corner | The How’s and Why’s of Traumatic Brain Injury in Sports

Dr. Curtis Cripe Health Corner | The How’s and Why’s of Traumatic Brain Injury in Sports

Athletes are often subjected to mental stress, whatever their field in sports are. However, due to recent incidents and issues on their effects, the focus now is more on physical damage to the brain. Dr. Curtis Cripe, an expert on brain-related injuries and remediation, believes that proper knowledge adds a layer of security for athletes against sports-related traumatic brain Injuries (TBI).

The how’s of TBI

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can be considered as one of the more common forms of brain damage to athletes. In the United States alone, at least 1.6 million to 3.8 million TBI incidents are recorded every year. This is because the causes of TBI are numerous, from simple concussions to the more complex long-term trauma.

Meanwhile, although you may think that athletes, particularly those at their prime may seem to have the experience, skills, and physical aptitude to avoid TBI, statistics show that the majority of sports-related traumatic brain injuries occur on athletes under the age of 15. This is worrisome, since just one complication from a simple head trauma can be debilitating and may shorten an athlete’s career.

Although direct force is a major factor in TBI, brain damage can also have delayed development and will progress even years after head trauma. It has been noted that previous histories of concussion, severity and duration of multiple symptoms, and years of negligence also contribute to TBI.

Symptoms and Signs

The most common signs of TBI, or precursor to other brain damage, can be checked right after a concussion occurs. The athlete may suffer from immediate loss of consciousness, or if the athlete is awake, there are noticeable delays in responsiveness. There may also be loss of balance and unequal pupil size, and extreme mood swings (slow to answer questions to total stubbornness).

The symptoms for TBI may occur immediately after head trauma, but they can also gradually manifest over time. Most common symptoms include nausea and regular headaches, blurred vision, tinnitus, and balance issues. Meanwhile, the damage may also be severe enough that the athlete will experience memory issues and sensory sensitivity concerns.

Why athletes are most at risk

Regulations and strict policies notwithstanding, most sports can be categorized as contact sports, and getting hit in the head is a regular occurrence. Sports like football and hockey, as well as boxing and others with athlete-to-athlete contact are sports where head trauma is common, and the risk of concussions are higher. Head injuries happen even with the strictest of rules or usage of head gears and protective equipment.

Avoiding TBI

According to Dr. Curtis Cripe, there are a number of ways where sports organizations and the athletes themselves can mitigate the risks of traumatic brain injuries. Proper protective equipment, rule changes, and right education can be done to decrease the chances of debilitating TBI happening during games.

After a head injury has occurred it is equally important to have proper evaluations to check for not only physical brain injury, but also cognitive function and imbalances with complete neuro-imaging and cognitive evaluations to determine the extent of the head injury.