Traumatic Brain injury

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My Helmet saved my life” .. said nobody ever. It’s true !! With no specifics on the origin of the football helmet, the first instances of what we call a “protective gear” could be dated back to the 1800s.

A strap and an earpiece were put together by George “Rose” Barclay, then a halfback for Lafayette College.

Centuries later, here we are today, myriad innovations later, having experimented with polymers, plastic, fabrics and more,

wondering if we have what it takes to protect our kids from and minimize the risk of acute problems like concussions and long-term problems like CTE.

The answer is, unfortunately, a “NO”.

But we will get to that. I promise to shed more light on it (backed with research) in my upcoming blogs. For now,

football helmet

Let me take you through some facts about Football Helmet:


  1. MOVEMENT: The brain has to move the only 7mm (just over ¼ inch) to be at risk of concussion and more serious injuries.
  2. CHANGE IN SPEED: When receiving a blow to the head, it is the sudden change in speed (i.e. acceleration) rather than the actual speed which is responsible for causing the concussion. In other words, our heads can tolerate immense speeds as long as they are arrived at gradually. What we can’t tolerate is when high speeds are inflicted suddenly.
  3. AGGRESSION: Surprisingly, non-contact sports such as basic playground activity could also lead to concussions. In other words, it is not really the sport, but the aggression with which you play that decides if you or your peers are at risk of sustaining a head injury. So, take it, easy folks!
  4. LOSS OF CONSCIOUSNESS: About 90% of concussions are not accompanied by loss of consciousness and hence are never taken seriously. In my opinion, a blow to the head should immediately necessitate an onsite evaluation irrespective of the status of consciousness.
  5. HEADACHES: are the most common symptoms that occur as a result of the concussion, so take them seriously! About 86% of the population that sustains a head injury reports of a headache.
  6. LOOK OUT FOR : personality disorders such as anxiety and depression following concussions as these are quite common and should not be ignored! Seeking help from a health practitioner like a psychologist or psychiatrist is of utmost importance during the early stages as well as in the weeks and months to come.
  7. OTHER RISKS: As per studies, although rare, there is a heightened risk for suicide after concussions, being most significant if you have sustained more than one blow to the head. The risk was higher by 2 fold and was not isolated to elite professional athletes but also ordinary people.
  8. SOCCER: Amongst soccer players, heading to control the ball is NOT RESPONSIBLE for a concussion. However, it leads to thinning of the cortex that could lead to slower cognition and personality disorders in the years to come. Female soccer players are more prone to concussions than their male counterparts due to smaller head size, allowing for greater transmission of force during heading.
  9. MICRO INJURIES: Amongst gymnasts and cheerleaders, the head to beam and head to the mat are common mechanisms of injury responsible for a concussion. However, interestingly enough, the most common cause of micro-injuries that do not cause immediate symptoms is from the feet to mat mechanism i.e. when the athlete lands on his feet hard enough to shake and jar the brain. REMEMBER, this is even scarier since it is easy to miss a diagnosis in such cases due to lack of immediate symptoms and this may prompt the athlete to resume activity thus making himself/herself vulnerable to more brain damage.
  10. X-RAYs AND OTHER IMAGING OPTIONS: X-rays are poor detectors of a traumatic head injury. Your doctor may order them to rule out fractures on your spine, face, and skull. Even in the absence of fractures, it is almost impossible to rule in or rule out a concussion based on those findings. A SPECIALIST IS THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN CLINICALLY CONFIRM A DIAGNOSIS OF A CONCUSSION.
  11. MINIMIZING THE RISK: Neck strengthening, posture correction and correcting biomechanics has a great role to play in minimizing concussion risk.
  12. HELMETS: Although helmets are no good in promising complete elimination of the chances of sustaining a head injury, research suggests that helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88%

  • About 85–90% of people diagnosed with concussion recover in around 10 days.
  • High school athletes sustain nearly 300,000 concussions a year playing high impact sports. Let’s talk about bringing these numbers down in my upcoming posts.

14. THIS ONE WILL BLOW YOUR MIND! : Not all schools are mandated to follow a concussion management program or adhere to a concussion policy. Of course, athletic trainers, coaches, and other team members will do everything it takes to keep the risk at a minimum, but standardized protocols are not available for all schools to follow.

A private school, charter school, in other words, a better-funded school may take a different approach from a public school relying on government funds. WHY CAN’T THEY ALL FOLLOW A STANDARD PROTOCOL? Something to ponder about.


15.  TO REST OR NOT TO REST? : Conventional wisdom was that rest is best after a concussion. However recent research suggests otherwise. In fact, exercises ie light aerobic exercises as against rest have actually proven to help minimize symptoms and hasten the recovery process post-concussion.

The list is endless, the statistics overwhelming, the risks debilitating and yet as Nelson Mandela said “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire and unite people in a way that little else does”. Something that resonates within each of us.

Being a mother to a 5-year-old boy who is obsessed with playing soccer and loves to ride his bike (without a helmet), am I feeling a little intimidated by these facts I enlisted? YES, I am! Am I going to stop my son from playing his favorite sport? NO, of course not!

So let’s get our facts right and take a unified approach to tackle this complex traumatic brain injury which certainly seems to be as common as a common cold these days.

Stick with me here at concussion talks as we go through a lot more myth-busting articles and a stepwise guide to reducing concussion risks, one head injury at a time!

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