“They’re not going to go to their coach and tell them they’re feeling bad at all ‘cause they know what’s gonna happen if they tell their coach that,” says Dr. Dean Lin, a neurosurgeon with Lee Memorial Health System.
It’s part of the ‘warrior mentality’ many athletes were raised on - brushing off a hard hit. But medicine is paying close attention to the damage from repeated hard knocks.
“A second head injury coming in very close, temporal proximity, could be severe with devastating consequences,” says Dr. Lin.
Dr. Lin is educating fellow health care professionals about the dangers allowing teen athletes to take the field too soon after a concussion.
“Even though the patient’s only complaining of some headaches or dizziness, a lot of stuff is going on inside of this head, which means he’s potentially very vulnerable to another injury.”
Research indicated younger, less developed brains are at a greater risk for second-impact syndrome, which occurs when an athlete returns to the sport too quickly, then suffers another concussion.
“The brain basically swells more than the skull can accommodate and the skull is a very rigid structure. It doesn’t accommodate anything, so the swelling causes the brain to crush itself,” says Dr. Lin.
A player who suffers even a mild concussion should be benched for the game. Most guidelines say a player should be out of commission for 7 days after their symptoms subside. But all too often, teens are quick to return to the practice field.
“There have been numerous cases studies and case reports about young players who’ve suffered two head injuries within days of each other basically dying from increased intracranial pressure,” says Dr. Lin.
That’s why caution should be the name of the game.
“We need to educate ourselves better, we need to study the information better, we need to learn when is it gonna be safe that your child can go back and play,” says Dr. Lin.
Important in protecting headstrong athletes.