As the football playoffs get underway, it behooves us to take note of the increasing publicity surrounding concussion injury among football players.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina released the results of a groundbreaking study of concussion risk among football players in the December 2007 issue of Neurosurgery. The researchers had outfitted college football players’ helmets with devices designed to measure the speed, direction and force with which they hit their heads while playing. Researchers recorded 104,714 total impacts over the course of five seasons. Players suspected of having sustained a concussion were examined. The researchers concluded there is no way to know for sure which blows will lead to a concussion, and that even minor impacts such as during a practice may cause a concussion. See further details here.
The obvious lesson for athletes playing football or any other sport (such as hockey) where impact to the head is common is to take symptoms of concussion — dizziness, lethargy, slurred speech — seriously, and postpone return to play until appropriate neuropsychological and other testing has determined that it is safe to return to play.