Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/10/2011 (3190 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
LOOKING dazed and seeing stars after a knock on the head are well-worn comic clichés.
But when a gifted $9-million-per-year athlete like Sidney Crosby sits out half a hockey season due to ongoing post-concussion symptoms, it's no longer possible to laugh them off, Don Cherry notwithstanding.
Besides being fodder for comedy, fighting through the pain, nausea and disorientation of being concussed has often been seen as macho.
This American book makes a convincing case for a radical shift away from both of those attitudes, towards an understanding of concussion as a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) with potential for long-term, permanent changes in brain functioning and behaviour.
It captures the enormity of the price many athletes have paid for their involvement in sport. And it calls into question the very way sports, especially football, hockey and boxing, are played in North American culture.
Linda Carroll is a health and science writer and David Rosner has been a sportswriter and editor of the magazine Neurology Now. They live in New Jersey.
They begin by telling the life stories of intelligent, talented individuals with drive and all the promise in the world, whose lives unravel because of the brain injury they've suffered.
(It's obvious that had Crosby lived in another time, he might still have been playing, opening himself up to the possibility of future depression and dementia.)
Though they lack that spark that makes characters really lift off the page, the anecdotes do make chilling statistics -- such as the high number of unreported concussions -- less mathematical and more human.
Carroll and Rosner define concussion (less than 10 per cent of them involve loss of consciousness), and explain how objective neuropsychological testing is done as a way to determine the degree of brain malfunction (correctly identifying how many fingers the coach holds up does not count). They offer practical, hands-on advice for those faced with a suspected mild TBI.
Adept at using plain language, they break down complex processes for interested lay people. For example, they compare the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brains of patients who had died, the same ones found in Alzheimer's patients, to a "trash heap" growing more quickly than the "street-sweeper enzyme could clean it up" when in the presence of a particular form of gene.
Accounts of the pathologists, physicians and researchers who became advocates for players with mild traumatic brain injury, often against the most stubborn opposition, make for entertaining reading.
At U.S. congressional hearings only two years ago, the National Football League continued to deny any findings of long-term damage due to recurrent concussions. It took the threat of losing their multibillion-dollar anti-trust exemption for them to finally sit up and pay attention.
Anyone involved in contact sports, and many who aren't, will find The Concussion Crisis accessible and educational. It could help prevent a lot of needless and preventable suffering.
Ursula Fuchs is a Winnipeg nurse.
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.