Concussions & CTE: What We Know
By Jeff Chambers October 11, 2017
Over my 35 years of experience as an athletic trainer, I needed to communicate with athletes, coaches, parents, and physicians in a way that each understood what had occurred. In the most basic of words, a concussion is any blow to the head or the body that causes enough injury to the brain to elicit symptoms such as being dazed, confused, clumsy, lightheadedness, and/or impaired vision.
When it comes down to it, the diagnosis of a concussion is subjective. Currently there are no objective diagnostic tests that can be performed to confirm a concussion or determine severity. Most diagnostic tests are performed to rule out a serious brain injury, that could lead to permanent damage or catastrophic results. These tests are designed to diagnose Traumatic Brain Injury. Signs are different from symptoms. Signs are what can be observed, and symptoms are described by the athlete.
I don’t assume that everyone follows along with the current news about concussions and the information that we are learning about the destructive impact of CTE. These are serious; and most coaches and trainers have taken this very seriously throughout their careers. Yet we need to improve our game: There are safer ways to play while keeping the integrity of the sport alive.
What causes concussions?
A concussion is a serious injury to the brain resulting from the rapid acceleration and deceleration of brain tissue within the skull. Rapid movement causes brain tissue to change shape, which can stretch and damage brain cells. This damage also causes chemical and metabolic changes within the brain cells, making it more difficult for cells to function and communicate. (Source: Concussion Legacy Foundation)
What is CTE?
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. The best available evidence tells us that CTE is caused by repetitive hits to the head sustained over a period of years. Most people diagnosed with CTE suffered hundreds or thousands of head impacts over the course of many years playing contact sports or serving in the military. And it’s not just concussions: the best available evidence points towards sub-concussive impacts, or hits to the head that don’t cause full-blown concussions, as the biggest factor. (Source: Concussion Legacy Foundation)
With a drop in youth football participation, few improvements to the gear that protects players on the field, and a lack of innovation, we believe there is ample room for improvement.
One airbag doesn’t save your life in a crash. Just like a helmet alone will save you from a concussion. When you are the field, you build confidence through technique and the right gear. Training, such as Heads Up, educate our players about a safer way to tackle. We realized there is a blank space out there; rapid acceleration and deceleration of the brain within the skull.
As shown above, with state-of-the-art testing done at Chesapeke Labs our collar is able to slow deceleration of the brain by up to 30%. Our objective is athlete safety. We designed Kato Collar to help provide protection against concussions, and decelerating the brain by nearly a third is going to make a positive impact on addressing that. We are committed to athlete safety and will continue to research and innovate ways to do that in football, as well as other high impact sports.
As more comes out in the research, theories are developing about what occurs inside the skull that causes injury to the brain after impact. I believe there is more to uncover with our approach to training, equipment, and how we improve recovery procedures. By first understanding and utilizing a common language, we’ll begin to realize how to approach concussions as they happen.