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Tackling Concussions 

Tackling Concussions: A Look at One of the Most Common yet Misunderstood Injuries in Football

There’s nothing football fans love more than a hard hitting tackle or sack. The image of a player being “laid out” then stumbling back to the bench disoriented and confused is a common scene in the game of football. But the truth of the matter is, these athletes are experiencing more than just getting their bell rung. They’re usually suffering from the effects of a concussion, one of the most common brain injuries affecting athletes at all levels. Unfortunately, concussions are as much a part of sports—especially football—as bad calls and hostile fans.

In recent years, the issue of concussions has been a hotly debated topic in sports news creating more awareness than ever of this often misunderstood injury.

Mark Barisa, Ph.D, ABBP, a clinical neuropsychologist at Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation, helps shed some light on this subject just in time for "The Big Game."

What exactly is a concussion?

A concussion occurs when a person’s brain is violently rocked back and forth inside of the skull. This can be the result of a blow to the head or the neck, or when the head is jolted sufficiently to stretch nerve cells and cause a brief interruption in brain functions. This trauma may or may not cause a loss of consciousness. 

How do you know if someone has a concussion?

According to a study conducted in 2004, the top ten most common symptoms of concussion were:

  • Headache
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Fogginess
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Memory dysfunction
  • Trouble balancing

Is everyone that gets “knocked out” really experiencing a concussion?

A concussion may not necessarily cause a loss in consciousness. In fact, 90 percent of concussions in sports occur without a loss of consciousness.

Can you have a concussion more than once?

An athlete that sustains one concussion is 4-6 times more likely to sustain a second concussion.

Which athletes are most affected by concussions?

High school and younger-aged athletes are more likely to sustain a concussion than professional athletes. In fact, children are more vulnerable to the effects of concussion than adults. This is due to prolonged metabolic changes in the brain following injury, causing them to take longer to recover than, for example, a professional athlete.

Dr. Barisa says that above all else, the most important fact to remember about concussions is that “most importantly, no athlete should return to play while experiencing symptoms of a concussion.”

 For more information about concussions or the Baylor SportsCare Concussion Management program, visit