April 2012 Health Tip: Concussions

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This month's health tip from the Massachusetts Medical Society, the statewide association of physicians, covers concussions.  

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head that jars the brain's soft tissue. The tissue then hits the hard skull, resulting in the brain malfunctioning.

A concussion can lead to a lifelong debilitating injury. An athlete, for example, doesn't have to be knocked unconscious to suffer this injury. A better measure of its severity is how long the symptoms last – headaches, confusion, blurred vision, and other behavioral abnormalities.

Massachusetts now has state laws on concussion awareness and training for high-school athletics, but those in youth sports are also at risk. Younger athletes, in fact, can be more susceptible to injury and take longer to heal.

Concussions aren't just confined to organized sports. The Centers for Disease Control lists the five leading causes of concussions as bicycling, football, basketball, playground activities, and soccer. Falls are a leading cause among citizens 65 and older.

To learn more, visit www.mass.gov/dph/concussion for state regulations on student athletes; www.cdc.gov/concussion for general information including signs, symptoms and prevention; www.massmed.org/sportssafety for a free coach's guide.

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