Sidney Crosby, Aaron Rodgers and Troy Aikman have many things in common. They’ve all found enormous amounts of success in their respective professional sports almost immediately upon entering the professional stage, and more recently, they’ve all been in the national spotlight for what is happening to them on and off the field.
All three have also suffered concussions. Aikman’s career was ended prematurely because of the several concussions he sustained, Rodgers missed two games in the 2010 season because of one and this weekend’s NHL All-Star Game stories have revolved around Crosby missing the game due to the effects of a concussion he suffered during the Winter Classic at Heinz Field.
Concussions and their symptoms have become a hot button topic for all major sports–hockey and football being the most prevalent because of the heavy hitting. Those sports are not just played at the professional level, however. Student athletes are just as susceptible to them as any pro athlete.
What is a concussion? According to WebMD.com, a concussion is a brain injury suffered when the brain shakes inside of the skull when someone receives a sudden blow to the head. Also, it says that the blow to the head actually keeps the brain from functioning normally directly afterwards.
Dr. John Ashurst, an emergency room specialist, has dealt with a few concussion patients since he first started working at the Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, PA in 2010.
“Concussions are a delicate matter,” said Ashurst, “and there’s no definite way of making an exact diagnosis until the patient is fully healed.”
Ashurst said that there are two basic grades of concussions, simple and complex. He said that simple concussions are the more mild of the two and take anywhere from a week to ten days for the symptoms to go away. Complex concussions are more severe and recovery periods can last anywhere from several weeks to even months because each patient reacts and heals differently.
“That’s what makes it tricky,” said Ashurst. “There’s really not a standard way peoples’ bodies react to the concussions. It’s like that with most any injury, but definitely more so with something like this.”
According to WebMD.com, concussion symptoms range from losing consciousness, lightheadedness, memory loss, nausea and vomiting–things Ashurst can attest to first hand as well.
“I had a concussion when I was playing at Juniata (PA),” said Ashurst, “and I suffered from pretty much all of the symptoms you hear about.”
He also said that while receiving care and being held out of practices until his symptoms subsided, concussions weren’t in the national spotlight in 2002 like they are today.
According to an About.com article on concussions in college sports, more than 34 percent of college football players have suffered a sports-related concussion and 20 percent of those athletes have had more than one.
The article also goes on to say that studies at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and Boston University Medical School have shown that players in the NFL are 19 times more likely to develop early onset Alzheimers and dementia, and eight times more likely to develop ALS–the ailment made famous by Lou Gehrig.
Ashurst says that when he’s treating someone with a concussion, he makes it very clear how dangerous they can be, and that the aftermath can lead to some other serious ailments, including death, if not handled carefully.
“It’s pretty scary stuff if you think about it,” Ashurst said. “Pros get paid to do what they do. College athletes don’t, and their chances of making it to the pros are very slim. So it’s good that this has been brought to the spotlight so that these college and high school kids get be a little more protected and get the care they deserve.”