We often hear about the severity of head trauma and coaches are encouraged to check for symptoms of concussions (dizzy, headache, light sensitive). However, recent studies are showing that repeated hits to the head, concussed or not, may result in long term side effects. In particular athletes who receive frequent head blows in sports such as football, boxing, soccer, equestrian etc may suffer significant visual memory loss.
It was estimated that a concussion may result from a head impact of over 80 times the force of gravity, (the average header in soccer produces an impact of 20 Gs) however, a recent study in the US monitored college football players and found that players were receiving approximately 150 hits/week with a force often between 100-250 Gs. The amount of force regularly hitting the players is astounding and yet these players were not exhibiting any symptoms of concussions and they appeared fine to their coaches and parents. What was disturbing was to find out was that the tests were showing a 20% decrease in visual memory capacity (in particular the area that requires rapid identification of recurring patterns) for players after just 3 months of training.
What this is saying, is that we need to be more aware of all head injuries. Be very careful of both major concussions as well as all those minor impacts that “chip away at the brain”.
Consensus Statement On Concussion in Sport
SIRC Newsletter: Concussions
Reference from the SIRC Collection: Epstein, David (2010). Unexpected Findings: The Damage Done. Sports Illustrated, 113 (16), 42-47.