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Lehrer Reports on Concussions

Last week on Grantland, Jonah Lehrer provided an in-depth look at concussions in high school athletes. Just to quickly summarize he gives some quick stats on concussion prevalence in high school athletes from the CDC. Then he goes on to summarize some of the research that has been done on multiple concussions.

All in all I think he does a decent job at looking at the data. I just had a few points of contention with his piece. At one point he is talking about the recovery process of concussions and states

"The worst part of the concussion, however, is what happens next, as all those cells frantically work to regain their equilibrium. This process takes time, although how long is impossible to predict: sometimes hours, sometimes weeks, sometimes never."

This is quite misleading. In the vast majority of mild traumatic brain injuries, including concussions and injuries which have even caused short periods of loss of consciousness, people will fully recover within several months of the injury. I found his claim of "sometimes never" misleading to the reader. It should instead read "extremely rarely" never. My statement is made with the caveat that if someone suffers multiple concussions without adequate recovery periods, then yes, they could have some permanent problems.

That's really my only beef with his article, he doesn't make a good enough distinction between single, isolated injuries and multiple injuries and their effects. With that in mind, there is a good amount of research out there showing that permanent structural changes are occurring in athletes' brains when they are exposed to repeated mild head trauma. Derek Boogaard and Bob Probert anyone?

Maybe it's a good thing that I didn't get much playing time in high school.

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