For years now the big hits in athletics have drawn cheers from fans, respect from teammates and even praise from coaches. But what is the ultimate price athletes are paying for those hits? What are the repercussions of concussions?
"KU trying to get back in this game now.. OH and the hits! Goodness, Guidian is hurt, he is knocked out, I mean down goes Frazier."
"These injuries as we call them, are invisible."
"Kolb in trouble...OH a big hit on DeSean Jackson."
"We as a society participate in risky things."
As the sports society we've become accustom to bone crushing, mind blowing hits. We pay homage to those delivering these blows and regard the recipients as warriors.
Dr. John Colianni, a sports medicine physician says, "Athletes from several decades ago, in which as soon as they could see straight, they were back to play. So you have examples of athletes that had 20 or 30 concussion or more, very difficult to know exactly because it wasn't managed the same way. Now we're seeing the effects of what happens with too many concussions."
Neurologist Dr. Jameel Arastu says, "I think it is underestimated by most people. Primarily because when you're on the field you get injuries a lot and for every little injury you're not going to walk off the field. And the problem becomes, when does it become serious enough to call it a head injury.
But as we learn more about these invisible injuries, the question becomes, what are the long term effects of concussions? Recently a study done by the Sports Legacy Institute and Boston University showed there may be more to these bell ringers than just seeing a few stars.
"They said that 40-45% of the individuals had shown the deposits that most people with Alzheimer's would show. So it's not as great a number but it's still substantial. So maybe it speeds up the degenerative process in the brain" says Dr. Arastu.
"Certainly some individuals have too many concussions result in these symptoms that are similar to early Alzheimer's or early ALS depending on the features of their particular brain injury accumulation" added Dr. Colianni.
"If you follow people with dementia, we like you to have the least amount of trauma to your brain, the least insult to your brain. But if you've had trauma you've also insulted the brain, so you're reserve becomes much less and we tend to think it speeds up the aging process in the brain" says Dr. Arastu.
And doctor Arastu believes repeated head trauma can also leave other lasting effects. "Irritability, their inability to concentrate or their memory. So, the combination makes it difficult for you to make decisions or even it alters your behavior."
But how many concussions is too many? But the answer is not that simple.
"This is where there's no magic number, no particular thresh hold where you've reached a certain number and you're done. Or reached a certain level of injury or a certain duration of injury" says Dr. Colianni.
Over time the way we treat concussions has changed and the same can be said for how we diagnose them as well.
"It used to be a matter of whether somebody was knocked out to make everyone aware there was an injury. And it's not a battle as much as it used to be to convince them that concussions are a serious problem" added Dr. Colianni.