Diagnosing a concussion may be harder than previously thought. A recent study conducted by Purdue University has concluded that high school football players suffered changes in brain function that went undiagnosed and they continued to play even though they were unknowingly injured.
The problem with this condition is the normal signs and symptoms of a traumatic head injury are not apparent, and players who are experiencing this injury keep playing, thus subjecting themselves to more hits. Impacts to the head cause the brain to bounce back and forth, thus damaging the neurons and surrounding tissue. The injury includes the possibility of breaking nerve fibers or even impairing signaling junctions between the neurons in the brain.
Researchers studied 21 players at a high school, and fitted them with helmets equipped with six sensors called accelerometers. These sensors picked up and relayed data to equipment that was located on the sidelines. Data was compared before, during, and after the seasons, and videos were also taken to study how the athletes sustained the impacts.
Purdue researchers tested all of the players, not just those who had been previously diagnosed with concussions and found that cognitive impairment was evident in those who hadn’t sustained previous brain injuries. Half of the players who had appeared to be uninjured still showed changes in brain function and cognitive ability.
The data from the helmets indicated that undiagnosed players who didn’t show impairment received blows all over the head while undiagnosed players who showed impairment received more blows to the top and front of the head. According to R&D, this particular part of the brain is involved in “working memory,” including visual working memory, a form of short-term memory for recalling shapes and visual arrangement of objects.
Lack of Symptoms
In order to be taken out of the game, the player must exhibit some sign of a brain injury. Symptoms of neurological deficit include unsteady balance, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, and slurred speech. In undiagnosed injuries, however, the ability to walk, talk, or have any sense of cognitive awareness are not affected.
The studies being conducted may show whether not players heal after the season is over, or whether the sustained injuries add up over the course of time. Preliminary data suggests that the players may recover before the start of the next season, but the extent of the recovery and the progression of the injury is yet unknown.
The research group is also working on a helmet that may reduce the effect of impacts, to be used by football linemen, soccer and hockey players, and even soldiers. The helmet, if done successfully, would be able to transfer the impact evenly, and absorb part of the injury.
If you believe that you or someone you know may have sustained a traumatic brain injury and it went undiagnosed, contact our attorneys. We will provide you with a free evaluation of your case, and work to ensure that you receive full compensation for any neglect or misdiagnosis you may have received.