The good news is that concussions generally aren’t fatal, and players return to practice after a few days or a week. The worry should be that players return to action too quickly; a repeat blow leads to a much more serious medical condition.
The problem is drawing attention from all corners. Everyone, especially those connected to football, are looking for guidelines and solutions – anything -- to give them comfort they’re doing the right things to protect players. But if finding ways to significantly reduce the number of brain injuries is the goal, the likelihood of that happening anytime soon isn’t promising.
Doctors in sports medicine report there is no simple test to confirm whether an athlete has even had a concussion. A brain scan might disclose bleeding, but in most cases a diagnosis involves a doctor conducting a neurological exam. Symptoms include confusion, headaches, vomiting, irritability and drowsiness, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
In football, some believe constructing a better helmet will greatly reduce brain trauma. So far, that hasn’t happened.
Helmets are designed to prevent skull fractures, and they earn good marks for that. However, they don’t protect athletes from brain injuries.
Bill Simpson, recognized as auto racing’s Godfather of Safety, set out to build a better football helmet using carbon fibers and Kevlar. Professional players gave it good reviews. But asked if he could claim that his helmet would reduce concussions, Simpson was adamant in responding to a question from a Popular Science reporter: “Oh, hell no. I would never make a claim like that.”
Most serious injuries result from the whip action involving the head. It’s the force of the collision that causes the brain to move within the skull, resulting in a concussion. What worries researchers the most are repeated hits and the long-term impact of numerous concussions. It’s also an area that doctors understand least.