UW–Madison’s Julie Stamm, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Education’s Department of Kinesiology, discussed “Kids, Sports, and the Concussed Brain” with CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta recently on the podcast, Chasing Life.
Stamm, who is the author of the book “The Brain on Youth Sports: The Science, the Myths, and the Future,” told Gupta that far from being something to brush off lightly, concussions are in fact considered traumatic brain injuries.
“I often use the term concussion because it’s just so commonly used in sport especially. But it is a traumatic brain injury, and it’s often classified as a mild traumatic brain injury — and even that feels like it minimizes the injury,” she said.
“We’re not worried about somebody having bleeding on the brain and having it be a critical, life-threatening thing in that moment. But it still can have very significant consequences, lasting symptoms, and can very much disrupt someone’s life. So, it is a serious injury.”
Stamm offered five tips to raise awareness about concussions:
Concussions can happen without losing consciousness
You do not need to lose consciousness to have a concussion, Stamm said. “Less than ten percent of concussions result in a loss of consciousness.”
Concussions can occur without a direct hit to the head
“A blow to the body that causes the head to move back and forth, like whiplash, can cause a concussion because the brain moves within and hits against the skull,” Stamm said. She explained that in sports, “This is one reason why helmets cannot prevent all concussions.”
Don’t overlook less obvious concussion symptoms
“These include difficulty sleeping or not sleeping enough, being apathetic, or being overly emotional,” Stamm said.
Update your treatment playbook
“While we used to say that rest is best following a concussion, we now know that light exercise is helpful for concussion recovery,” Stamm said.
Avoid impacts in sports
“Minimizing or eliminating impacts in practice or delaying the start of full-contact versions of sport until a child is older are strategies that not only help to reduce concussion risk, but also to minimize the consequences of repetitive brain trauma in sports,” Stamm said. “The best way to prevent a concussion is to avoid impacts.”
On Chasing Life, Sanjay Gupta taps his decades of experience as a neurosurgeon to explore the many states of the brain — distracted, nourished, concussed, frightened, and more. In each episode, he provides insights into how to build a stronger brain and keep it sharp.