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Concussions can be serious but difficult to detect

There has been increased attention to brain injuries recently due in large part to an effort by the National Football League to reduce the number of concussions and improve the care of those who sustain traumatic head injuries. One of the most difficult challenges in treating brain injuries, whether sustained in a football game, car accident, or a slip on the ice, is to identify the injury in the first place.

When Michigan Wolverines played in the Sugar Bowl earlier this month, the opposing team used a special technology to detect when there was a severe impact to the head that may be likely to cause a concussion. A set of sensors inside the football helmet would detect serious impacts and alert the team's training staff who could then follow up to determine if the player had sustained a concussion.

This sort of technology could be exceptionally useful as many people who sustain concussions may not even realize they have been injured. But the symptoms of injury may not always be readily apparent even when the injury is serious. After a car crash or workplace accident a victim might just think that they feel a little "shook-up" or "dazed" when in fact they have suffered a more serious brain injury. This can occur even when the head does not make a forceful impact, a sudden jerk that causes the brain to press against the inside of the skull can also cause serious damage.

While this new technology has the promise to help athletic trainers and medical personnel to identify when a player may have suffered a concussion, unfortunately it is not very practical for the rest of us. That is why even after seemingly minor head trauma it is important to be vigilant and watchful for symptoms of brain injury.

Source: The Plain Dealer, "Technology may help detect a concussion, but the methods are still evolving," John Mangels, Jan. 15, 2012

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