Getting Your Bell Rung:
More "Rings" Put Athletes at Risk for Severe Concussions

November 22, 2002

If you play high school sports, especially football or soccer, you are at risk for a head injury such as a concussion. A concussion is defined by the American Academy of Neurology as a "trauma-induced alteration in mental status that may or may not involve loss of consciousness." So, a person does not need to become unconscious to have suffered a concussion. Rather, any change in mental status such as memory loss or confusion are signs of a concussion.

What if you have already had one concussion? Are you more likely to have another? Will your next concussion be worse than your first? These questions were asked by Dr. Michael Collins and a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of British Columbia. The researchers divided high school athletes who had had a concussion into two groups: those who had suffered only one concussion (60 athletes; average age, 15.8 years) and those who had suffered three or more concussions (28 athletes; average age, 16.1 years). Compared to athletes who had suffered only one concussion, athletes who suffered from multiple concussions were:

6.7 times more likely to lose consiousness
3.8 times more likely to have memory problems for events immediately after the injury
4.1 times more likely to become confused
4.4 times more likely to have an altered mental state for more than five minutes
9.3 times more likely to have 3-4 signs of a concussion.

Head trauma may cause concussion-related symptoms by increasing the need of neurons for glucose, the fuel that neurons use. Concussions may also be caused by reductions in blood flow within the brain. It is unknown how multiple concussions influence a neuron's need for glucose or affect on brain blood flow.

Reference and further information:

  1. Collins, M.W., Lovell, M.R., Iverson, G.L., Cantu, R.C., Maroon, J.C. and Field, M., Cumulative effects of concussion in high school athletes, Neurosurgery, 51:1175-1181, 2002.
  2. Practice parameter: the management of concussion in sports. (Summary Statement.) Neurology, 48:581-585, 1997.
  3. High School Sports and Brain Injury from Neuroscience for Kids
  4. Soccer and the Brain from Neuroscience for Kids

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