Concussions Common In Fall Sports

By  //  June 22, 2012

Sports Medicine

(Video By FloridaHospitalOrlando and CFNews13)

EDITOR’S NOTE:  According to a new study recently published by the American Academy of Neurology, National Football League (NFL) players face higher death rates resulting from traumatic brain injuries and are more likely to suffer from diseases like Alzheimer’s and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) than the normal population. Recent suicides of NFL athletes like Junior Seau, Dave Deuerson and Ray Easterling, who sustained multiple concussions during their playing careers, have also raised questions related to a cause-and-effect association between concussions and subsequent suicide (Peter K’s “My Take”).  With this heightened awareness of the diverse dangers of sports-related traumatic head injuries, the NFL has donated $30 million to the National Institute of Health to fund brain injury research.

High profile media attention places the safety of professional football players in the spotlight, but with the prep football season well underway, it’s also critical to focus on prevention, diagnosis and diligent treatment of head injuries which are prevalent in school-age athletes participating in a myriad of “contact” sports and activities.

In the UCF Pegasus Health press release below, Leonardo Oliveira, M.D., Assistant Professor, UCF College of Medicine, who specializes in internal medicine and sports medicine at the college’s faculty practice, addresses the critical warning signs of concussions and what every parent should know before sending their child out on the field.

ORLANDO FLORIDA – As we approach another school year, students and weekend warriors alike will be spending more time playing outdoor sports. However, with all of the benefits of physical activities comes the increased risk of concussions, especially when it comes to contact sports.

The fall sports season includes sports like football and soccer, and activities like cheerleading, which put athletes at risk for head injuries.

“Each year, approximately 300,000 people in the United States experience sports-related concussions,” said Leonardo Oliveira, M.D., Assistant Professor, UCF College of Medicine, who specializes in internal medicine and sports medicine at the college’s faculty practice, UCF Pegasus Health.

“Of particular concern are those involved in contact sports, like football and soccer, whose chances of concussions may be as high as 19 percent per season.”

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury most often caused by a sudden bump or blow to the head or other parts of the body. It also can be caused by a fall. As a result of the sudden impact, the brain moves around in the skull causing chemical changes. These changes make the brain more sensitive to stress and additional injuries until it fully recovers.

It is important to recognize the warning signs for concussions, said Dr. Oliveira, and seek medical attention immediately for the following conditions:

  • Headache/neck pain
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Poor balance
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Dazed or stunned behavior
  • Amnesia
Heightened awareness of concussive symptoms by coaching and training staff is critical.

“Most people who have experienced a concussion realize that something is wrong,” said Dr. Oliveira. “However, the symptoms can be tricky, so those around the injured person must pay close attention for the warning signs. This is especially apparent among football players who are conditioned to being knocked down and getting back up again, only to realize later that they’ve been hurt.”

Gary Preisser, athletic director for Orange County Public Schools, said all Orange County athletes who participate in “high risk” sports must have a baseline neurocognitive test before their first contact football practice, within the first week of cheerleading or before the first game for other sports. Mandatory testing also must occur for tackle and flag football, basketball, soccer, cheerleading, wrestling, lacrosse, baseball, softball and high jump/pole vault.

“The school system’s concussion protocol is listed on the web site, which includes the warning, ‘Even mild concussions can be deadly.’ Before the season starts, we have parent meetings where we present information they need to know about concussions and proper hydration for athletes.” Preisser added, “Parents have to sign a form that they understand a concussion is something that could happen.”

Dr. Oliveira said, “Difficulty concentrating in school and completing tasks is an immediate effect of a head injury and can sometimes be the only sign. If not treated quickly and appropriately, it can have significant consequences, including poor school performance.”

A history of migraines, learning disabilities and sleeping problems may be associated with prolonged recovery periods after a concussion.

Other warning signs parents and coaches should monitor include changes in behavior, worsening headache, persistent double vision, excessive drowsiness or stroke-like symptoms (i.e., difficulty moving a limb, speech or facial droop). These warrant an evaluation by the closest emergency department.

Although treatment for concussions is individualized, he said, most all physicians recommend physical and mental rest immediately after the injury. This includes no texting, video games, TV, reading or physical activity. It’s also important to understand that medications will mask the pain and do not heal the brain. In fact, anti-inflammatory medications can be dangerous because they increase the risk of bleeding. However, there are situations where medications are warranted.

“Since each injury and each athlete is unique, it is difficult to predict the recovery time,” said Dr. Oliveira. “However, young athletes experience longer recovery times than adults because their brains have not fully matured. A history of migraines, learning disabilities and sleeping problems also are linked to prolonged recovery periods.”

Dr. Oliveira said, after receiving a sudden bump or jolt, patients often ask how they should know when it’s time to see the doctor. “My answer is always the same. If you’re concerned enough to ask the question, chances are high that you should see a doctor. It is paramount to have an evaluation and obtain clearance by a physician experienced in diagnosing and treating concussions before returning to sports activities,” he said.

About Leonardo Oliveira, M.D.

Dr. Oliveira

Dr. Oliveira is an assistant professor at the UCF College of Medicine and is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine. His areas of focus include sports concussions, running injuries, exercise performance and cardiovascular issues in athletes. Dr. Oliveira sees patients at UCF Pegasus Health, the faculty physician medical practice of the UCF College of Medicine.

About UCF Pegasus Health

As part of the UCF College of Medicine, UCF Pegasus Health was developed as a way to provide individualized, multidisciplinary health care based on the latest medical advancements. Staffed by faculty physicians, patients can receive primary and specialized care at our medical facility located at 3400 Quadrangle Blvd., Orlando, FL 32817.  Specialties include sports medicine, internal medicine, infectious disease, cardiology & cardiovascular testing, geriatrics, rheumatology, neurology and nephrology. For more information call (407) 266-DOCS or visit