Over the past 10 years in Canada, the amount of reported concussions and head injuries have been on the rise. Since 2010, a report done by the Canadian Institute for Health Information that combined data from Alberta and Ontario shows that kids nine years old and under had an increase of 78% in sports-related brain injuries, while kids between 10 and 17 show an increase of 45%. Although there have been a decrease in head injuries over the past few years, hockey is still the number one at 19.25% for head injuries reported in all sports played in Canada.
Types of head injuries
The most common head injury athletes suffer from in sports are concussions. A concussion happens when you hit your head hard enough that your brain shakes around in your skull which causes a traumatic altercation to your mental status. In severe cases, you can suffer from nerve fiber and neuron injuries.
Common head injury symptoms include constant headaches, decrease of control, balance and motor skills, sensory changes including your ability to hear, taste and see, and finding it hard to express words or thoughts.
To determine the level of concussion somebody has suffered, a doctor will check four things; if there was a loss of consciousness, the duration of the loss of consciousness, any post traumatic memory loss and how long it lasts, and checking headaches, dizziness, or lack of concentration. When an athlete thinks they might have a concussion, they will leave the playing surface and take a Standardized Assessment of Concussion (SAC) which is a five minute series of physical exercises and questions. This doesn’t always determine if a player has a concussion, because sometimes symptoms don’t occur until the day after.
A new computer based testing software called ImPACT has been a go-to concussion spotting app for many teams across Canada. Diagnosing a concussion is very important, especially for athletes, because you are six times more likely to sustain another one. You should always protect your head when playing sports, since suffering a concussion can cause future brain problems.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a long-term disease that can be found in people who have previously sustained concussions. CTE causes behavioral problems, problems thinking, and mood swings. It will often get worse over time and can cause early cases of dementia.
Preventing head injuries
If you play a contact sport like hockey or football, you should wear your helmet on the field of play 100% of the time. While playing those sports, never target your opponent’s head for any reason.
If you have a child playing any sport, always practice safety with them and tell them the dangers of getting a head injury. Always inspect their equipment before they play each game to ensure that they are functioning properly. If they like riding their bikes or skateboards, make sure they wear a safety certified helmet while they are out.