Concussion Facts
Concussion Facts

39 Essential Facts about Concussions

James Israelsen
By James Israelsen, Associate Writer
Published November 7, 2017
  • Concussions are traumatic injuries to the brain, most commonly sustained through a blow to the head.[3]
  • Generally, a concussion is not accompanied by loss of consciousness. It is possible, and fairly common, for people to have a concussion and not even realize it.[3]
  • The danger posed by concussions to professional football players is a public health issue, concern for which has been growing steadily over the past decade. The NFL has been largely dismissive of the concerns, and the immense popularity of football, as well as the huge amount of money it generates, makes a solution difficult to find.[8]
  • Female athletes in high school and college tend to suffer from concussions at a higher rate than their male counterparts.[7]
  • Recent evidence suggests that it typically takes females nearly twice as long to recover from concussions as males.[7]
  • A growing body of evidence links repeated concussions to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.[8]
  • CTE is a "progressive degenerative disease of the brain" caused by repetitive brain trauma, and it most commonly affects athletes who play contact sports.[5]
  • Concussion Dementia
    The damage caused by repetitive brain injury impacts can negatively affect all aspects of one's health and life
  • CTE causes the brain to shrivel and degenerate. It manifests in a variety of progressively more serious symptoms, from confusion and memory loss to aggressive behavior, suicidal tendencies, and dementia.[5]
  • Evidence accumulated over the past two decades reveals a link between repeated head injuries and depression, dementia, substance abuse, and suicide.[4]
  • Dr. Bennet Omalu's pioneering research in the field of concussion and head trauma from 2002 to the present has helped bring the seriousness of football-associated head injuries to public awareness. Omalu was portrayed by Will Smith in the 2015 film Concussion.[8]
  • The average recovery time for concussion patients is 11 days for boys and 28 days for girls.[7]
  • Some individuals experience depression and migraines following a concussion, although the exact linkage between the two is not fully understood.[7]
  • Dr. Bennett Omalu's research on head injuries began when he autopsied the body of former Pittsburgh Steeler center Mike Webster, who had exhibited signs of severe brain trauma prior to his death in 2002.[8]
  • Mike Webster, widely considered one of the greatest centers in the history of the NFL, suffered extensive head trauma during his career as a football player, which led to a total mental and psychological breakdown.[8]
  • The NFL created the "Minor Traumatic Brain Injury Committee" (MTBI) in 1994, naming New York Jets team doctor Elliot Pellman as committee chair, despite Dr. Pellman being a rheumatologist and lacking any previous experience in brain science.[4]
  • Concussions Sports
    Professional football players are one of the highest at-risk groups for sustaining concussions and developing CTE.

  • Concern over traumatic brain injury in professional football continued to grow throughout the 1990s, especially among affected players; but little systemic change was effected to address the problem.[4]
  • Dr. Bennet Omalu's research on Mike Webster culminated in his 2005 academic paper "Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in a National Football League Player," which was published in the prestigious journal Neurosurgery.[8]
  • In May 2006, Dr. Elliot Pellman, Dr. Ira Casson, and Dr. David Viano, all members of the NFL's Minor Traumatic Brain Injuries Committee, demanded that Neurology retract Dr. Omalu's paper, claiming that his findings contained "serious misunderstandings."  None of the NFL doctors demanding the retraction were neuropathologists, and Neurology refused their request.[8]
  • Dr. Ira Casson, chair of the MTBI from 2007–2009, was nicknamed "Dr. No" for his continual denial that there was any link between football-related head injuries and long-term psychological problems.[4]
  • Research suggests that mixed martial arts is actually safer than boxing over the long-term, as concussions are more common in the ring than in the octagon.[1]
  • Concussion illness
    Some concussion symptoms appear immediately while others are delayed for days or even weeks.
  • Common symptoms of a concussion can include headache, nausea, confusion, fatigue, sleep problems, and mood changes.[13]
  • Concussions are one of the most common human injuries, with an estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million occurring in the United States alone each year.[13]
  • Approximately 1 in 10 people who play a contact sport will sustain a concussion yearly.[13]
  • Approximately 87% of professional boxers will sustain a brain injury during their career.[13]
  • Traumatic brain injuries cause 1.5 times more deaths than AIDS.[13]
  • Having a concussion renders you 4 to 6 times more susceptible to having a second one.[13]
  • Receiving a concussive blow to the head can cause an "impact seizure," which temporarily disrupts the electrical activity of the brain and causes a metallic taste on the tongue.[2]
  • Enzo Montemurro, a footballer at Cornell University, died in 1981 from swelling of the brain after a mild bump into an opposing player. Montemurro's family discovered that he had been punched in a fist fight several days before the game, which had left him vulnerable to further injury. As in Montemurro's case, someone with a recent concussion can die suddenly from even a minor impact.[2]
  • In response to a huge number of player lawsuits, the NFL has agreed to pay out over one billion dollars over the next 65 years to former players suffering from football-related brain injuries.[12]
  • Boxing great Muhammad Ali suffered from Parkinson's disease later in life, which Ali's doctors traced back to the repeated head injuries he'd sustained in the ring, a condition that came to be called "pugilistic parkinsonism."[2]
  • Many people believe that the frequency of concussions in professional sports can be reduced with the use of better helmets, but recent research shows this to be largely false.[2]
  • Concussion kid
    Children who start contact sports at a young age are at much greater risk for concussions and long-term brain problems.
  • Children, whose brains are growing rapidly, are especially at risk for long-term health problems as a result of concussions.[2]
  • Children who suffer from concussions, especially repeatedly, are at high risk for cognitive impairment including slowed thinking, judgment impairment, and memory problems.[2]
  • Public awareness of the dangers of concussions is only now growing.  A 2010 survey showed that only 8% of parents had a good understanding of the risks associated with repetitive head trauma.[2]
  • Dave Duerson, a former NFL star, fatally shot himself in 2011; an autopsy of his brain revealed that he had CTE. His final communication was a handwritten note left for his family which read, "Please see that my brain is given to the NFL's brain bank."[11]
  • A 2012 study done by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that while professional athletes, including football players, tended to have better overall health than the average U.S. citizen, they were 3 times more likely to die of neurodegenerative diseases.[9]
  • Different countries have different views on the threat posed by concussions. Sports organizations in South America and Asia have tended to downplay the risk, while many European leagues are following the example of the United States and instituting stricter policies to avoid and treat these injuries.[6]
  • As early as the 1920s, the symptoms of CTE were recognized as affecting boxers, and the affliction was commonly known as "punch drunk syndrome," or "dementia puglistica."[5]
  • Concussion Boxing
    Professional boxers rarely escape brain injury altogether.

  • As of 2009, all fifty states and Washington, D.C., have passed "concussion laws" mandating that school athletes suspected of having sustained a concussion during play must be taken out of the game or practice.[10]
  • Scary Concussion Facts INFOGRAPHIC
    Concussion Infographic

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