Virginia studying Brain Injury and Sports Concussion

Brain injury in sports can occur even without outward manifestation, such as bleeding, swelling of the skull, bruising of the skin or laceration. Sports medicine specialists who study head injury in athletics have long noted that it is the movement of the brain inside the hard, bony shell (the cranium) that often determines the nature and extent of the brain damage. Director of the Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute at the University of Virginia School of Medicine Jeffrey Barth has explained, “if [a player] is not expecting it, the head snaps on the neck [when struck].” The Sports Illustrated Special Report Concussions concluded by noting that when an athlete is caught off guard or going the wrong way, even a minor blow to the head can be devastating. This is because the speed at which the head snaps back and how long it takes to decelerate often determine whether an athlete will be concussed. It the snapping of the head and neck is rapid enough, the player can lose consciousness momentarily, and suffer a concussion.

To entirely prevent or mitigate concussive head-snapping, athletes strengthen their neck muscles and try to be prepared. When an athlete braces for a tackle, or a boxer gets ready for a punch to the head, the tensing of the neck muscles can keep the skull from jerking too fast. Bracing the neck to prevent fast deceleration of the brain inside of the skull can prevent or lessen the impact of a tackle, check or punch to the head.

Because of the short term and long term effects of single and repetitive insults to the head, the National Hockey League (“NHL”) has tried to eliminate blows to the skull that catch a player by surprise. The NHL banned blind side hits in 2010.
The Mayo Clinic suggested that all hits to the head, blindside and otherwise, be banned from hockey. Even though hockey and football players wear helmets, a concussion is often not the result of a direct blow to the head. Instead, rapid front-to-back and side-to-side snaps of the skull, as in a car crash, can result in loss of consciousness, concussions and swelling of the brain. When the head or body is buffeted by a large force, the movement can cause the brain to strike the inside of the hard, boney skull. The brain is anchored by the brain stem, like a thick rope holding a bowling ball on top. The brain moves at different speeds from the rest of the head, like a jello mold inside of a hard, glass jar (the skull). In severe deceleration cases, like car crashes and blind side tackles, the brain can even bounce off the inside of the skull, causing brain swelling, bleeding and permanent injury and deficits. If you or someone you know has had a head injury or sustained a deceleration accident that is causing headaches, dizziness or other symptoms, get medical assistance at once. If the harm was caused by the negligence or unsafe decisions of another, e-mail or call us at ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd. (703-796-9555).

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