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Second Impact Syndrome: Second Impact Injuries Can Be Devastating

Second Impact Syndrome: Second Impact Injuries Can Be Devastating

Football is one of the more hard hitting sports youth in America enjoy playing. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of participating in such a rough and physical sport is the risk of injury. With the helmet to helmet contact that comes from playing football, one of the more serious injuries that can occur is that of concussions.

When a player is exhibiting signs of a concussion, which are vomiting, dizziness, losing consciousness, and blurred vision, the most common medical tool used to assess damage is the CT scan. If the CT scan comes back normal, a player is then released to once again play football.

Recently, reports of players receiving serious, even devastating, injuries after being CT-cleared to resume playing football, are occurring. Players may suffer a rare injury known as “second-impact syndrome” or SIS, which happens when an athlete suffers an injury to the head too soon after a previous concussion.

One high school athlete who had suffered a concussion during a football game, was still suffering from headaches days after the game. After a CT scan came back normal, the young man resumed his position on his school's team. Unfortunately for the teen, on the fourth drill of the day, he was hit, knocked to the ground, and although he arose and tried to resume playing football, three plays later, dropped to his knees, and then collapsed with his body racked by seizures.

After being rushed to the emergency room, doctors discovered the pressure on his brain was dangerously high. Pressure to the brain was released, but tragically for this young man, brain damage had already occurred. A once, healthy, independent teenager, six years later cannot walk unassisted and has major problems with his short-term memory, as well.

According to a neurosurgeon at Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine Center, the most significant point of the young man's story is that a “normal CT scan does not clear you for contact” sports after a concussion.

The American Journal of Sports Medicine published a 2007 study that reported ninety-four incidents of severe football head injuries in high school and college players from 1989 through 2002. Close to sixty percent of these players had suffered previous head injury and more than seventy percent of the injuries occurred in the same season as the catastrophic injury. Nine percent of these players died, and fifty percent suffered permanent neurological injuries.

With more than four million youth playing football in this country each year, although SIS is relatively rare, it is usually devastating, with victims either suffering altering brain injuries or death, and it is a risk for young contact sport athletes.

David Hovda, a professor of neurosurgery at UCLA, stated that every reported case of SIS has occurred in young people, and the reason for this is because their brains are still maturing and do not have room to accommodate the swelling that ensues after a serious head injury. He advises parents to be aware that when their child plays contact sports, the risks of suffering a concussion is higher than that of other activities. The important issue is, however, that when when a child does suffer a concussion, the decision to release the child to return to play should be made by a physician not only trained in concussion management, but by a physician who is not affiliated with the team, as well.