The NHS Choices website states that most cases of concussion occur in children and teenagers aged 5 to 14, with the two most common causes being sporting and cycling accidents. Falls and motor vehicle accidents are a more common cause of concussion in older adults.
The most common symptoms of concussion are: confusion, headache, dizziness, nausea, loss of balance, feeling stunned or dazed, disturbances with vision and difficulties with memory.
People who regularly play competitive team sports such as football and rugby have a higher risk of concussion.
An inquest into the death of Jeff Astle, former England and West Bromwich Albion player, who died in 2002 aged 59, found that he had suffered death by industrial disease: his brain having been damaged by the repeated heading of heavy leather footballs.
We have seen only too often footballers suffer head injuries and then continue to play and a report into injuries suffered at the 2014 FIFA World Cup found that there were 1.68 injuries per match. 18% were head injuries and they included five concussions and three fractures. Almost all of the head injuries were caused by contact.
The RFU website suggests that about 25% of injuries during play are to the head (including concussions, cuts, bruises, and so on). Approximately it is thought in the professional game 1 concussion is suffered in every 3 games and in the amateur game the rate is 1 concussion in every 21 games.
We were saddened to read that Lily Partridge a 23 year old part-time teacher, zoo-worker and sportswoman lost her life earlier this month having suffered a head injury during a rugby match in Devon. Only last year Sarah Chesters, died over a month after suffering an injury whilst playing rugby. An inquest determined that Miss Chesters died from brain injuries thought to have been triggered by blunt force trauma to the side of the neck when she first sustained injury, caused by a tackle.
What to do?
The NHS Choices website recommends that you visit your nearest accident and emergency department if you or someone in your care has a head injury resulting in concussion and then develops any of the following signs and symptoms:
- loss of consciousness from which the person then recovers
- amnesia (memory loss)
- persistent headaches since the injury
- changes in behaviour – a particularly common sign in children under the age of five
- drowsiness that goes on for longer than an hour when you would normally be awake
- large bruise or wound to the head or face
- prolonged vision problems
- reading or writing problems
- balance problems or difficulty walking
- loss of power in part of the body, such as weakness in an arm or leg
- clear fluid leaking from the nose or ears
- a black eye with no other damage around the eye
- sudden deafness in one or both ears
Head Injuries can, as evidenced by the sad stories of Lily Partridge and Sarah Chesters be devastating, very quickly. They may, as they proved to be for Jeff Astle, have long term health implications.
If you are in any doubt about head injuries of any kind, including concussional head injuries, you should seek medical advice.