The Mayo Clinic describes second impact syndrome (SIS) as a complication arising from a concussion. It occurs when someone experiences a second concussion prior to fully recovering from the first. With SIS, “typically fatal brain swelling” occurs.
When a concussion takes place, the levels of various chemicals in the brain are changed. Recovery fully from a concussion is highly variable and depends on both the nature of the injury and the patient involved. Athletes who have had a concussion should not return to sports while symptoms persist and until they receive clearance from an appropriately trained healthcare professional. It takes at least one week for the chemical levels in the brain to return to normal after a concussion.
NHL star Sidney Crosby learned a lot about concussions first-hand. While playing with the Pittsburgh Penguins in January 2011, he received a concussion. He suffered from a second one only four days later. It took him 11 months to fully recover. Crosby said, “With concussions there is not generally a time frame or a span where you’re feeling better. You feel like you’re getting better and it can be one day and you’re back to where you started. It’s a frustrating injury.” It wasn’t until he was treated by chiropractic clinical neurologist, Ted Carrick, DC, that Crosby recovered from all his symptoms.
Even the mildest of concussions can lead to second impact syndrome, because it’s not the strength of the impact that is the greatest danger. An impact of any force while the brain is still recovering can result in the catastrophic swelling attributed to the syndrome. Most cases of SIS occur in children and adolescents who are thought to be the most susceptible.
If you are an athlete, the first step in preventing head injuries is to wear appropriate safety equipment for the sport you are playing. A helmet is essential for activities like football, baseball and cycling. Players, parents and coaches need to recognize that even helmets, good supervision, on-field awareness and expert training are no guarantee against concussions.
There are three additional steps to protect young athletes from SIS:
- Requiring responsible adults to receive concussion-awareness training so that they can recognize the signs of a potential concussion.
- Requiring officials, coaches and managers to remove injured players from the field when a concussion is suspected.
- Requiring the approval of an appropriately trained healthcare professional before allowing any athlete with a suspected/actual concussion to return to sports-related activities.
Finally, it is a good idea for athletes to obtain a baseline neurological examination to assess their physical and functional health. This “pre-injury” workup should be part of your training regimen. Not only will an examination help you identify weak areas for training, it will also provide valuable information should you ever have an injury. For serious athletes we recommend an examination every 6 months to identify and correct problems before they get out of hand. We can provide baseline neurological examinations. Call today!