A Concussion Is Too Serious to "Play Around With"

Dr. Robert Cantu explains in no uncertain terms that the brain is not replaceable and if a concussion is mismanaged, it can lead to permanent injury.

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[Dr. Robert Cantu] Well my sense is that we're doing better at treating and diagnosing concussions, but I think we're still missing a great many, especially in collision sports like football where there's a lot of stop time and very little go time. In a sport like soccer where it's mostly continuous play, it's pretty hard to play through serious balance issues or concentration issues as compared with football where you may have four or five minutes—correction—in football where you may have four or five seconds of physical activity and then 30 seconds of standing around getting the next play. That's a lot easier to play through than say soccer. Well I think we need to educate the athletes themselves and the parents to the dangers of playing while still symptomatic, not just the risk—the rare second-impact syndrome that has horrific consequences for those that get it. Fortunately it's rare, but for those that get it almost 100% have serious neurologic morbidity, and about 50% will die. But more importantly, emphasize that it's not safe to play with symptoms. If you do, you risk getting the next hit to the head cause a very prolonged post-concussion syndrome, a period of months where you have symptoms that may take you out of school, will take you out of sport, and have very significant consequences as a result. It is just not smart to try to worry about whether you're going to lose your position if you come out of a contest or whether the coach will lose any steam for you. It's just very important to understand this is too serious an injury to be fooling around with. This is not like an injury to any other part of the body. The brain is not replaceable. You can wind up with permanent injury if you mismanage a concussion.
Posted on BrainLine August 30, 2013.

Produced by Noel Gunther and Erica Queen, BrainLine.

About the author: Robert Cantu, MD

Robert Cantu, MD is chief of Neurosurgery Service, chairman Department of Surgery, and director of Sports Medicine, Emerson Hospital; clinical professor, Department of Neurosurgery, and co-director, Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, Boston University School of Medicine.

Dr. Robert Cantu