Hard Hits part 1: Concussions in Pine Belt Football - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Hard Hits part 1: Concussions in Pine Belt Football

Turn on the television on Sunday or Monday, and you're almost guaranteed to see an NFL defensive player spear himself, head first, right into the chin or the chest of the offensive player. It's a problem the NFL continues to try and remedy with rules changes, harsher fines and in-game penalties. No matter what rules the league tries to impose, it can't shield the fact; the game has become more violent and brutal than in any point in its history.

While Friday nights in the Pine Belt feature players of considerably less size and strength, the pads popping just as violently. Helmets still fly off, and concussions are just as much of an issue, if not more, for the high schoolers who suit up.

 "Kids in their adolescent or teenage years are more susceptible than adults are in the professional sports," says Mike Williamson, director of sports medicine for the Hattiesburg Clinic, "Their brain, just like the rest of their body, is not fully developed. The brain is still growing, and is not fully developed across electrical pathways."

A concussion is generally defined as a disruption of the normal electrical and chemical activity in the brain, and it's the second, rather than the first, collision that poses the biggest threat. "A concussion itself is not the initial problem. It's the post-concussive problem that you have," says Kevin Clement of Sports Medicine and Orthopedics for Hattiesburg Clinic, "It's kind of like an injury on top of an injury. It becomes the big issue we're trying to avoid."

The big issue he's referring to is players suffering a severe head injury, and returning to the field of play before that injury has had a chance to fully heal; Second-Impact Syndrome, as its known.

There are no exact statistics to show the number of concussions in the state; however, anywhere from 1.6 to 3.8 million people suffer sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries in the United States every year, according to the Mississippi Brain Injury Association in Jackson. Of that number, an estimated 75 to 90 percent of those injuries are treated in a hospital or emergency room.

Mississippi ranks as the third state in the country in number of brain injuries, including concussions, per year.

The athletes themselves are heavily relied upon for a concussion diagnosis, mainly because, unlike a broken bone or a torn ligament, concussions do not show up on many tests.

"A concussion, for the most part, does not show up on an MRI or a CT scan," said Clement, "People assume that you have to have that to be diagnosed with a concussion. That's not true. You do not have to have any loss of consciousness with a concussion."

What's more, symptoms of a concussion may appear relatively small after the first collision. Here are some symptoms of concussion to watch out for, according to Hattiesburg Clinic:

  - Headache

  - Blurred vision

  - Memory loss/changes

  - foggy feeling/confusion

  - behavioral changes

  - slowed reaction

  - dizziness

  - sensitive to light

  - emotional changes


Next Tuesday, Nov. 6, part two of "Hard Hits" will look into just how the athletes are examined on the sideline during game night, and what protocol demands if they are diagnosed with a concussion or head injury.


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