Know Your Pain

Posttraumatic Headache among Sportsmen

The craze of contact sports in America leaves hundreds of sportspersons disposed to the risk of brain injuries. There are reports of about 300,000 sport-related brain injuries coming in each year. The severity is anything from minor to fatal. Some do not respond to treatment and are left brain-dead. Several sports like football, hockey, roller-skate hockey, soccer, boxing, skiing, and to a lesser extent baseball and basketball carry the risk of brain injury. However, the risk of injury can greatly reduced by avoiding the second impact syndrome.

The second impact syndrome

If head trauma happens again within a specific period after the first one, it can cause concussions. Concussions are an altered state of mind temporary in nature, but fatal if not treated. Repeated head trauma can have cumulative effects leading to fatal consequences. The brain swells, the intracranial pressure increases, and the blood vessels could rupture. Concussions are reported 160 times a year in the NFL and 70 in the NHL.

The risks can be highly reduced by giving enough rest after the first trauma in order to recover completely. Players should not be sent in immediately after the first injury, even if it is mild. Mild injuries can add up. The next time, it doesn't need a big blow to lay him flat.

Doctors treating the sportspersons need to be aware of how much rest there needs to be after a player suffers trauma. The American Academy of Neurology has set certain guidelines which the doctors and therapists need to know.

Posttraumatic headache

Headache after the trauma is common. But in some cases it could last for as long as a few months. In extreme cases it could last for years. Posttraumatic headache is characterized by symptoms like dizziness, confusion, lack of concentration and insomnia. But the ache itself is harder to bear than the other symptoms.

Posttraumatic headache gradually diminishes over a few days or months depending on the person. Apparently, there is no correlation between the severity of injury and that of the headache.

The headache is caused mainly due to contraction of muscles in the scalp and neck. Another cause of posttraumatic headache is increased pressure in blood vessels. It leads to what is called as vascular headache, which has characteristics similar to migraines.

Head injuries have more than physical ramifications. They could increase anxiety and fear. There could be ups and downs in mood. The physical and emotional implications of trauma can together compound the situation.

The physical aspect of posttraumatic headache can be dealt with non-narcotic analgesics. For the emotional aspect, antidepressant drugs or tranquilizers may be required.