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Healthy Living Blog

Playing With a Concussion Can Cause Second Impact Syndrome


second impact syndromeIf you’re an athlete and suffer a concussion, you never should be allowed to return to play if you’re still showing signs or symptoms. If you do, and hit your head again, you run the risk of causing Second Impact Syndrome.

Second Impact Syndrome happens when you suffer a second concussion before completely recovering from a previous concussion. The brain swells so quickly, death is likely to happen in a matter of minutes.

Although the risk of Second Impact Syndrome can be hard to predict, here are some things parents and athletes should consider to stay safe.

Concussion Basics

The word concussion comes from a Latin verb meaning “to shake violently.” In this case, a blow to the head causes your brain to shake violently within your skull. It’s similar to the yolk in an egg. The yolk represents your brain and the eggshell your skull.

If you do suffer a concussion, you’ll experience any number of symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Disorientation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling “in a fog”

Young children have the highest rates of concussion, with sports and bicycle accidents accounting for the majority of cases. Falls and car accidents are the most common causes of concussion in adults.

The Recovery Process

A concussion injury typically resolves without complications within 10 days. If you’re recovering from one, you may be asked to pass a series of tests before you’re allowed to return to play. Concussion protocols vary from league to league and sport to sport. Some doctors even establish a baseline before the season begins. You’ll be put through a series of tests during your pre-participation physical exam. This way, your doctor will know what to look for if you suffer a blow to the head.

The Danger of SIS

In most cases, when someone dies from Second Impact Syndrome, an undiagnosed concussion occurs before the final concussion.

And what makes Second Impact Syndrome so scary is that it is very difficult, in some cases impossible, to control. The second blow to the head inflames the damage from your first concussion. The brain begins to swell and push against the skull, which keeps blood from flowing, and ultimately kills you.

What’s even scarier is the fact that the second blow to the head can be surprisingly minor. It can occur even after a grade 1 concussion, the mildest form of a brain injury.

Dr. Robert Cantu, who studies Second Impact Syndrome, discovered that even a blow to the chest that indirectly jerks an athlete’s head can produce enough force to cause Second Impact Syndrome. A study by the Forensic Science Newsletter found the majority of athletes who experience Second Impact Syndrome are under the age of 18, although it also can be seen in college athletes and rarely, professional athletes.

The risk of Second Impact Syndrome is higher in sports like football, boxing, ice or roller hockey, soccer, baseball, basketball and snow skiing.

An Often Fatal Injury

If you’re a victim of Second Impact Syndrome, your chances of dying are about 50%. If you do survive, you’ll most likely live the rest of your life with brain damage and neurological symptoms like:

  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • Muscle tenseness
  • Emotional instability
  • Hallucinations
  • Post-traumatic epilepsy
  • Mental disability

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, once an athlete suff­ers an initial concussion, his or her chances of a second one are three to six times greater than an athlete who has never sustained a concussion.

Researchers also say that concussion symptoms can last twice as long for anyone with a history of previous concussion as those without such a history.

That’s what makes Second Impact Syndrome so serious. If you suffer a concussion, you must follow a strict return-to-play protocol. Most cases of SIS occur in young people, so it’s important for parents to monitor their young athletes’ symptoms very closely, too.

If you’d like to find a physician to get more information on managing concussion symptoms, contact us today.

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