Team and solo sports participation is something that a great percentage of people engage in on at least a weekly basis. In fact, 56.3% of children, both male and female, under the age of 12 play a team sport. When you factor in teens and adults who play , that number rises.
Unfortunately, another number rises with the number of children and adults engaging in sports. That is the number of concussions that those players suffer. Boys are particularly at risk, accounting for 75% of all concussions suffered by those playing youth sports. Football accounted for the majority of these concussions. That is not to say that girls are not at risk – girls’ soccer had the highest rate of concussions among girls’ sports and the second highest concussion rate overall.
Just what is a concussion? In the simplest terms, a concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury or MTBI. Generally, concussions are caused by a jolt, bump, or blow to the head that alters normal brain function. This is because the shock causes the brain to rapidly bump around the inside of the skull. This causes injury.
The signs and symptoms of a concussion can range from mild to severe. They include:
- Memory problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood changes
- Loss of consciousness
These symptoms may not appear immediately following the injury. Some of these symptoms might not present until days and sometimes weeks later.
Further statistics indicate that an athlete who suffers from one concussion is 4 to 6 times more likely to suffer from a second concussion.
The injuries from successive concussions can multiply the damage. A condition that can result from multiple concussions is called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, abbreviated CTE. CTE is a degenerative brain disease which produces symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease. However, unlike Alzheimer’s disease, CTE is caused by repeated brain trauma. This makes CTE the only preventable form of dementia.
Boxing and professional wrestling are two sports in which CTE has been known to afflict the players. In 2009, there were 51 confirmed cases of CTE. 39 of those athletes were boxers. 5 were football players. 1 was a professional wrestler. There was also one soccer player confirmed to have CTE.
However, a more recent study indicates that athletes who participate in football may be more at risk. Of 111 former NFL players who donated their brains for research, 110 were shown to have developed CTE.
Concussion prevention is certainly a driving factor in keeping athletes safe, but diagnosing a possible concussion early is also warranted. Prevent Biometrics is looking to do that with a mouthguard that can tell how hard an athlete was hit and whether or not they are at risk for a concussion.
Darren Miller, partner at D. Miller and Associates says, “The traditional observational method of determining concussion risk is ineffective.”
This new mouthguard can take some of the guesswork out of the equation by sending hard data to be analyzed rather than relying on the old “how many fingers am I holding up” routine.