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Concussion--Not Just An Athletic Issue

There has been a lot of publicity in the media recently regarding athletes and concussion injuries. How risky are various sports? How soon can athletes return to play? What are the signs and symptoms to watch for to know that an athlete is concussed and shouldn't be in the game? And most importantly, what are the long term effects of concussions in athletes?

You may have noticed that I haven't written for this column in quite a while. That's because I've been dealing with the after effects of a concussion. While the media and researchers are looking at the long term effects of concussion in how they change the brain and cause athletes to be suicidal, personally I'm looking at how the short term effects accumulate to become unbearable. Loss of memory, headache, inability to comprehend everyday situations, feeling overwhelmed with minor tasks or decisions, feeling lost, and losing the ability to perform skills you've previously excelled at will all add up to make the concussed person feel depressed, angry, homicidal, suicidal, and out of control. Thankfully, there are treatments to ease those issues, so those who have suffered a concussion don't have to progress to the point of harming themselves or someone else. I've been lucky enough to live in the Tampa Bay area, where we have the USF Health Concussion Center, so that I have been able to find the right combination of medications that help me feel normal. MRIs done 6 months apart show no changes in the brain lesion that was found from my concussion, so the medication appears to be preventing the deterioration that unfortunately seems to have happened in many athletes in recent years.

While I was an athlete in my past, I haven't considered myself an "athlete" in well over a decade. My injury wasn't from playing a sport or even doing a workout. I was picking up in the gym and hit my head. I could have easily done the same injury by picking up in my living room and hit my head on the desk or a table instead of a piece of gym equipment. Concussion doesn't care if you are an athlete or not. If you hit your head, or even have a rapid forward and backward motion of the head like in a rapid stop or accident in the car, you can have a concussion. You don't have to lose consciousness to have a concussion. If you have a hit to the head or sudden jerking of the head, no matter how minor you think it is, see a doctor.