Sporting events, particularly contact sports, unfortunately often lead to head injuries. The repercussions of such injuries can profoundly impact an athlete’s working memory.Read more: Understanding Sports Head Injuries: From Concussions to Cognitive Effects
In 2012, a study by Veiligheid NL highlighted that out of 76,000 sports-related head injuries, 40% required medical attention. Out of these, 3,200 athletes were treated for brain/skull injuries. Now, while the term ‘contact sports’ is broad, risks of concussions are undoubtedly higher in UFC fights or boxing than in swimming. Although unintentional, head collisions are frequent.
The Trauma and Its Symptoms
Many head injuries appear severe at first glance. Symptoms of a concussion can range from dizziness, confusion, disorientation, to headaches. The brain’s reaction to such trauma can be likened to a blender – with neurons vigorously shaken. Cells scramble to regain balance, consuming glucose, leading to a sugar crash in the brain. A subsequent concussion, before full recovery from the first, can exacerbate the damage due to the brain’s inability to restore chemical balance.
While some athletes immediately recognize a concussion, many remain oblivious. Thomas Talavage from Purdue University researched this phenomenon. His findings revealed that concussions can occur without manifest symptoms. Using sensors in American Football players’ helmets, he discovered that many of the hits, although unnoticed by players, resulted in concussions. FMRI scans further confirmed the unseen trauma.
Impact on Working Memory
The effects on working memory are alarming. Athletes tested before and after the season exhibited weakened working memory capabilities post-season. The cognitive strain increased, indicating potential long-term implications like impulsivity, depression, and, in severe cases, even dementia.
The U.S. soccer federation banned heading for players under 10 due to lawsuits surrounding head injuries from headers. But proper technique is vital, as most head injuries result from collisions and falls, not headers, according to KNVB.
In conclusion, understanding and possibly avoiding certain confrontations might be the smart move, given the severe implications of concussions on working memory.