Broken bones are taken very seriously in today’s world, but what about injuries people cannot see? Traumatic brain injuries are currently becoming increasingly common, with a majority of them being caused by sports. Both professional and high school athletes suffer from traumatic brain injuries, one of the most common ones being a concussion. Concussions are unable to be seen and can be caused by a hit to the head or an impact that is absorbed by the head. They have many negative impacts that can permanently change someone’s life.
Many people do not appreciate the seriousness of concussions on young adult minds because there is no physical evidence of an injury. Concussions need to be taken more seriously in high school sports because of the negative impacts they can have on developing teenage brains.
The teenage brain is not fully developed during the time that adolescents are playing high school sports and brain injuries can have a large impact on developing brains.
The adolescent brain begins to develop when about nine years old, continuing into when the brain reaches twenty years old (Ciccia). This time of development occurs throughout someone’s entire high school career and longer, showing how critical the processes being created or refined are to the human mind. During adolescence, three things are developed: executive functions, social cognition, and language. Executive functions includes self-control and a higher ability to understand more intricate thoughts and problems. Development within social cognition can result in understanding emotions in others.
Language development includes a bigger, more complex vocabulary, as well as a better understanding of the tenses. (Ciccia) These three areas are necessary to function in the semi-adult world, especially as teenagers begin to go to job interviews and have more interactions with adults. Throughout their high school career, most teenagers participate in at least one sport. Often times, the sports are expected to help with the above developments, but sometimes that is not the case. Sports can result in concussions, which can then affect brain development. Recent research has shown that traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can affect personality, moral reasoning, and social cognition (Ciccia). Concussions are within the category of TBIs and can hinder brain development in the ways stated above. This can result in a changed person, but not necessarily in a positive way. The teenage brain is developing throughout high school and concussions can have negative effects on someone.
Concussions have many short-term effects that are often ignored by parents, coaches, and athletes themselves. Some short-term effects include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and light sensitivity (Concussions: How They Can Affect You Now and Later). All of these symptoms are signs of a concussion, but someone does not need all of them to be diagnosed with one. There are many other symptoms of a concussion, including vacant stares and confusion, that may not be honestly reported because of competition and the pressure to win within high school sports (Edwards). Athletes will not always take their condition seriously, sometimes ignoring the bigger picture because of their desire to keep playing or participating with a team. Concussions can easily be under-reported because there are no sure signs of having one and the only real information doctors will receive is what is told to them from the teenage athlete (Edwards). Because there is such little concrete knowledge about concussions and their symptoms, people easily lie to get cleared so they can go back to their sport. Not only do athletes ignore their symptoms, but so do their parents. Some parents see their child’s success in sports as a way to increase their own social status or as a way to fulfill their dream of being a star athlete and will push their child to continue, despite injury, whether visible or not (Patel). These types of situations can result in ignoring concussion symptoms, which can result in even more time out of sports if not reported soon enough or given the proper time to heal. It is important for parents, student athletes, and coaches to recognize the short-term effects of a concussion on someone because, if not recognized soon enough, they can result in a longer time out of a sport.
Not only do concussions have short-term effects, they also have long-term effects that can negatively affect the brain. Some long-term effects include trouble concentrating, sleep disturbance, and personality changes (Concussions: How They Can Affect You Now and Later). These effects can last for a longer period of time than symptoms such as headaches. Long-term effects can impact a teenager’s schoolwork, such as decreasing grades. A recent study show that, if a high schooler is suffering from a concussion, he or she is more likely to have difficulty in the classroom, which should be made obvious to the school (Concussions and Schoolwork). This study shows that trouble focusing and other symptoms can have a very negative impact on teenage athletes. Dropping grades are a sign that the adolescent brain has not fully healed yet. Schools should be made aware of the injury in order to provide help to those who need it, including extra time on exams or someone to help them in classes where they are having trouble. Multiple concussions can have more dramatic long-term effects, including difficulty learning or speaking.