By Kelly Greenway PT, DPT, ATC
Concussions in sports continue to be a hot topic, and more sports are making changes to the rules, equipment, injury assessments, and how athletes return to school or their sport following a concussion. In lacrosse, helmets remain controversial across the board. Do they actually protect an athlete from a concussion, or are they giving these athletes a false sense of safety and causing them to be more aggressive?
The Helmet Debate
For women’s lacrosse, some schools and school districts have made helmets a mandate, while other schools are providing the option for the athletes. In boys and girls lacrosse at the high school level, concussion is listed in the top five most frequent injuries. Goggles and mouthguards in women’s lacrosse are beneficial in protecting against facial injuries, but helmets, which are required in men’s lacrosse, cannot prevent concussions. Helmets also cannot reduce the risk of a second concussion from occurring.
Concussion and Injury Concerns
Research is now showing that concussions should not be our only concern when it comes to sports. Repeated head injuries, without a concussion, are now linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). These “small,” repetitive hits that athletes take add up over time, and show an increased risk for the same marker as Alzheimer’s and CTE. While athletes may not be diagnosed with a concussion or have symptoms, contact sports may have consequences that athletes will be faced with later.
Know the Signs and Symptoms
While this new research on repetitive trauma is alarming, education is very important for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Athletes, parents, and coaches should understand how these injuries occur, what the signs are, and what the guidelines are for returning to sport following a concussion. Athletes should also feel comfortable coming forward when they have symptoms of a concussion.
When concussions do occur, they should be managed properly by a physician. If symptoms persist, physical therapy services can help an athlete get back to their sport safely.