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Brain injury in contact sports

My name is Mahima and I am 16 years old. I was inspired to write this article because it aligns with my interest in psychiatry, and researching in depth about the physical and chemical aspects of the brain when impacted by contact sport injury helped me understand the types of genes and chemicals that influence thought and action.

 

The focus of the research is the scientific analysis of the impact of brain injury on players in contact sports. The research question pursuing this focus is: what developments in contact sports can be made to most efficiently keep players from sports-related brain trauma? Essentially, brain injuries in contact sports, specific to both professional and non-professional players, vary depending on the equipment, environment, and sports education.


The origin of full-contact sports can be traced back several generations, while the modern versions of contact sports have origins from the 1800s (Paget 2022). Since ancient times, many contact sports have become part of international sports competitions, such as the Olympics, with millions of people who enjoy them for recreational and professional purposes (Paget 2022).


The influence of scientific factors in terms of brain injuries that result in contact sports can modify how people view the diligence of players, which can help progress the research on the effects of brain injury on players. In other words, learning about the biology behind brain injury in contact sports will aid in progressing research about the effects of contact sports injury on the brain. Common forms of brain injuries have received increased attention, both in the medical literature and social media, in the field of sports (Sahler and Greenwald 2012). Generally, all parts of the brain are responsible for controlling movement, thought, and memory, but injuries can damage the neurons and synapses in the brain (Sahler and Greenwald 2012).


A research experiment conducted by a team of neurologists on a group of young athletes supports the concept of a direct relationship between the severity of a brain injury and the roughness of contact sports. In this research experiment, the neurologists tested and observed the young athletes that had undergone intense brain damage. Although the initial purpose was to enhance the research on brain injury, over the course of the experiment, the conductors reached a consensus that young athletes, especially elementary and middle school aged, were more inclined to experience an unexplained loss of consciousness due to frequent head injuries as compared to adults (Ling, Hardy, Zetterberg 2015). This is because the fragments of the spinal cord are still forming and fusing and their brains are not fully developed. The results of the research experiment conveyed that young children were not only more likely to experience severe forms of brain injuries, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) but also displayed a similar set of symptoms as that of adults (Ling, Hardy, Zetterberg 2015). In addition to concussions, young athletes also experience dizziness, nausea, low levels of concentration, amnesia, and headaches as some of the common symptoms (Ling, Hardy, Zetterberg 2015). Sahler and Greenwald, medical professionals in neuroscience, are likely to concur with Ling, Hardy, and Zetterberg, attendees of the Reta Lila Weston Institute of Neurological Studies in the United Kingdom, on the idea that increasing exposure to contact sports at a young age can deter the mental and emotional developments of young athletes due to increased risk of damage to the brain.


Concussions are another significant issue when it comes down to the types of severe brain injuries in contact sports. As mentioned before, TBI is defined as a form of acquired brain injury from a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain (Agarwal, Thakkar, Than 2015). TBIs are most similar to sport-related concussions in the case that both may result in neuropathological changes in an individual (Agarwal, Thakkar, Than 2015). Unfortunately, the acute clinical symptoms largely reflect a functional disturbance rather than a structural injury, and no abnormality is seen in standard structural neuroimaging studies (Agarwal, Thakkar, Than 2015). The brain’s parts are not uniform in density, so when this organ collides with bone, some parts of the brain will move faster than others (Stevens 2018). That can cause parts of the tissue to twist and get squashed and can damage delicate nerve cells (Stevens 2018). Amy Markowitz, freelance editor and scientific

writing instructor, who also believes that there are no reliable treatments for TBIs, CTEs, or any other common brain injury in contact sports can endorse these pieces of research. CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is hard to diagnose compared with other brain diseases. The methods usually used to look at the brain and diagnose brain diseases are called MRI and CT scans

(Markowitz 2019).


In young children, prolonged unconsciousness, persistent mental status alterations, or abnormalities on neurologic examination require urgent neuroimaging, but it does not play a primary role in managing an athlete who has sustained concussions (Sahler and Greenwald 2012). Urgent neuroimaging is rather used to rule out significant structural pathology such as intracerebral hemorrhage, in which case blood seeps into the brain tissue due to a ruptured blood vessel (Sahler and Greenwald 2012). Due to some of these problems that are affiliated with severe brain damage in contact sports, it is an important consideration for young athletes they remain symptom-free without the use of any pharmacological agents or medications that may mask or modify the symptoms of these injuries (Sahler and Greenwald 2012). Sometimes, in addition to the young athletes, older athletes may try to hide their symptoms for fear of not being able to play further, which explains why there are some cases where long-term risks of concussions were dismissed (Cardenas 2017).


Eva Hvingelby, a nurse practitioner, would state that it is dangerous if head trauma and concussions happen at the same time since essential learning and thinking skills are developing. This can have a long-term effect since this combination can hinder the normal development of a child’s brain (Hvingelby 2017). All three authors would agree that there is no consensus for those living and may have problems with thinking, mood, and motor functions, and researchers need more information to reach a stable conclusion on this subject.

As implied by the research experiment, brain injuries can hinder performance and negatively impact athletes’ mental health and well-being in general (Podlog and Heil 2015). As for the psychological aspects of the aftermath of brain injury in contact sports, it is important to understand the necessity of rehabilitation during recovery. Monitoring, evaluating, and managing pain during injury rehabilitation pushes the boundaries of athletes’ pain experience and may increase their ability to tolerate pain (Podlog and Heil 2015). Fortunately, this form of post-injury recovery offers a new perspective on playing, and athletes may have a clearer sense of the meaning and value of sports and from that sense of loss, so more than likely they may recommit themselves to their sport in terms of that new perspective (Podlog and Heil 2015). Bringing the idea of teamwork to rehabilitation puts the athlete into familiar territory, identifies rehabilitation as a group process, and helps normalize the need to rely on others (Podlog and Heil 2015). To elaborate on the idea of teamwork behind successful rehabilitation, meeting the challenges and demands of the new rehabilitation environment as a team will help the athlete overcome feelings of isolation related to separation from the team, and build confidence in recovery. Some long-term risks include emotional and physical complications, and the method of prevention is to be attentive to one’s surroundings (Mayo Clinic 2015). Both authors concur that accepting fear and treating it as a tool to guide decision-making will enable the athlete to optimize rehabilitation and reduce recovery time.


Because of the various impacts that participating in contact sports can have on the brain and the subsequent influence these changes can have on the research behind the scientific factors of the occurrence of brain injury in contact sports, it is important to consider solutions for mitigating this issue. Therefore, incorporating support systems will provide athletes of all ages with resources and advice to help them prevent severe brain injuries in contact sports is the best possible solution for this issue regarding the physical and mental effects on athletes’ development.





 

Works Cited:


A Neurosurgeon’s Guide to Sports-related Head Injury. (n.d.).

https://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and Treatments/Sports-related Head-Injury


Concussion in Sports – Past, Present and Future. (n.d.).

https://www.nfhs.org/articles/concussion-in-sports-past-present-and-future/


CTE: The Hidden Risk of Playing Contact Sports. (n.d.). Frontiers for Young Minds. https://kids.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frym.2019.00093


Full Contact Sports. (n.d.). http://www.sportlegacy.net/full-contact/

Kids Who Play Contact Sports at Increased Risk of Brain Damage. (2021, October 8). Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/kids-contact-sports-and-brain-damage-1720009 Neurological consequences of traumatic brain injuries in sports. (2015, May). ScienceDirect.


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