Sudden Death

Sudden Death

By Dr. Daniel Rancier MD

As more and more young athletes suffer traumatic brain injuries and even death, some are ramping up their research into how these injuries are occurring. The NFL has been dealing with much more information coming forth regarding chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, and its links to severe brain trauma. However, youths are dealing with another severe and possibly deadly brain issue, Second Impact Syndrome.

U.S. News and World Report published a recent article titled “Sudden Death” in which they go into detail about SIS and the effect it can have on young athletes who continue to play even though they still have symptoms of a prior concussion. Here are some of the highlights of the story.

The story of a young and successful high school athlete, Toran Maronic, detailed how he sustained a traumatic brain injury during a non-contact game. He had crashed into spectators first and then the ground and immediately went into a full seizure. His case caught the attention of a former TV honcho (Terry O’Neil) who teamed up with a top neurosurgeon (Dr. Robert Cantu), a leading expert on brain trauma, to start a new research effort. The plan is to investigate these head injuries over a six-year period.

The focus of the investigation will be on Second Impact Syndrome, a deadly condition that seems to prey on specifically young athletes. Its signature is swelling – dramatic swelling, the brain pushing against not just the skull but sometimes down into the spinal column. Most doctors suspect the brain’s plumbing breaks, unleashing a flood of blood and fluid, caused – as its name suggests – not by one blow but two: first a malfunction and then a full rupture. The blows can be separated by seconds or by weeks. But much else – from why it occurs to why it seems to strike only young men – remains a mystery.

One of the frustrations the two have is that SIS is utterly preventable. Players who have received an initial concussion are at greater risk for acquiring another much more severe one. Coaches, trainers, parents and even players need to be educated and aware of the symptoms of a concussion. But sometimes players will hide the effects to stay in games and coaches may not be as quick to pull players from a game as they should be.

What does seem apparent, however, is the danger posed by taking a first one hit and then another. It’s why so many insist on the term second-impact syndrome.

“It’s telling you that it’s preventable. If you had the means to understand that this brain’s already been injured, the kid never should be playing,” Cantu says. “It implies there’s something that can be done about it.”

Many communities and districts have instituted regulations with firm guidelines for teams to follow. They include education components for players, coaches, and parents to understand when players should be allowed back onto the field.

You can read the full article at the following link.

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