By Jeremy Appel
With many people gathering to watch last week’s Super Bowl between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots, they may be interested in the potential risks of full-contact sports like football.
The Commentator spoke to Dr. Jerry Woodruff, a local physician, about concussions, which are an injury most frequently associated with athletics.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Commentator: What sort of activities are most likely to lead to concussions?
Jerry Woodruff: Quite a variety. Falling off the top of a slide, falling down stairs. It might be a sports-related injury, like hockey. A motor-vehicle accident might be another possibility.
C: How does one reduce their likelihood of getting a concussion?
JW: Accidents happen. Even though they’re preventable, you don’t anticipate them. That’s just life.
C: Why is there such a common association between sports like football and hockey, and head injuries?
JW: They’re contact sports. Even in baseball, two fielders can collide in the outfield and bang their heads pretty hard.
Definitely, contact sports are the biggest issue.
Even with riding a bicycle, head protection is very important.
C: What are some of the short-term and long-term effects?
JW: To be actually called a concussion, you need to have some sort of neurologic effect — so loss of consciousness of a variable duration, memory loss is common, nausea, not being steady on your feet.
By definition, a concussion does not cause any structural damage in the brain. It’s more like bruising of tissue, as opposed to a bleed into the brain. Then it’s a more serious issue.
Concussion indicates a limitation of damage.
We do have rules that we follow about follow-up to injuries and when the athletes can play again, and how to be careful.
C: What happens if you repeatedly get concussions? Can that evolve into something more serious?
JW: There is some brain damage that occurs in some cases with people who have had repeated concussions.
One of the things we can try to do is prevent people from hurting themselves more after a head injury by playing again.
Sometimes I’ll see somebody who banged their head but continued to play afterwards.
That’s a little bit worrisome.
Not every bang on the head means you should be out of the game, but just watch for indications that it’s more than just a minor bang.
C: If you’re participating in a full-contact sports, what steps can you take beyond avoiding serious collisions to reduce risk?
JW: I don’t know. Professional and amateur athletes do put their bodies and heads at risk. It’s part of the deal.
They also wear out their knees and elbows. There’s a risk of damage to your body with a lot of sports.
Be on the lookout for things would be my only suggestion.
When you have young people involved in sports, it sort of starts the process earlier when you’re at risk of injury.
It’s important to offer young people athletic training in sports that are not so high risk.