Usually, when people think about a football player with a head injury, they picture someone who looks dazed and seems a little confused. Maybe his words are slurred or he even seems groggy. In reality, an injured player may appear perfectly fine at first.
According to new research on brain injuries in football players, biochemical markers associated with brain injuries can show up after just one hard knock on the head, although the football player still seems totally normal. The study was developed by focusing on chemical changes that were recently discovered to occur within the brain after an injury.
Scientists already know that continuing to play football (and risk additional injuries) after an untreated concussion can damage an athlete's long-term abilities at both school and work.
In addition, earlier research has already indicated that fewer than half of the kids who play football across the nation are likely to report the problems they experience after a head injury. Many likely fear being taken out of the game they love so much. Others may just not realize that their relatively mild symptoms are indicative of a real problem.
As it turns out, many of the kids who don't actually even feel the symptoms of brain injury may also be suffering from unknown amounts of damage.
This is bad news overall for the game of football. It means that the traditional method of judging whether or not a player is injured, by sitting him down with the coach or a trainer and letting someone take a good look at him, is practically useless. It might be good for identifying injuries that are immediately apparent and serious, but it won't do anything to identify hidden injuries.
Brain damage due to repeated head trauma is one of the most catastrophic types of injuries that can happen to a young athlete. As studies continue to confirm, it's also far too easily overlooked.
Science is clearly sending the message that even one head injury is too many. Any player who receives a blow to the head, no matter how mild, should be taken out of the game until he has a chance to properly heal.