Ohio State tragedy can’t be forgotten

First Posted: 12/3/2014

A week ago we were all talking about Kosta Karageorge, the Ohio State football player who took his own life, apparently unable to deal with the many concussions he suffered playing high school and college sports.

Hopefully, he just wasn’t “the story of the day,” and the page hasn’t already been turned on this tragedy.

The prevalence of concussions among athletes participating in contact sports deserves continued scrutiny.

Athletic concussions aren’t just a football thing or a guy thing. Athletes suffer concussions in all sports. In fact, more girls suffer concussions playing high school soccer or basketball than boys in the same sports.

Unfortunately, “there is no magic pill or surgery to fix the problem,” and too often information about concussions is misunderstood, Dr. Jason Hageman of St. Rita’s Medical Center told The Lima News earlier this year.

He pointed out:

• Not every athlete has the same symptoms or severity. Every concussion is unique to that patient. Furthermore, an athlete with a concussion may not be aware of his or her concussion since the brain is what is injured.

• Concussions are “difficult to see.” They are unlike a broken bone that is seen on X-ray or an ACL tear that is viewed with an MRI.

• The diagnosis of a concussion is made clinically. There is not an imaging test, computer test or lab test that will diagnose a concussion. However, there are tools that are used to help the health care provider evaluate a concussion.

• There is no specific amount of time that a concussed athlete is out of activity. Treatment duration and management is unique to each individual.

• The pillar of initial concussion treatment involves physical and mental rest, which is hard for many people.

Medical professionals are now doing a much better job of detecting concussions. That’s part of the reason the past decade has seen the number of concussions suffered by high school athletes more than double. It is not that sports are more dangerous now then they were 10 years ago. Rather, those involved in the medical profession and athletics are doing a much better job of detecting concussions.

Still, the numbers are staggering.

It is estimated that 140,000 high school athletes across the country suffer a concussion each year. New research also suggests that for every concussion, the person is one to two times more likely for a second; two to four times more likely for a third; and three to nine times more likely for a fourth.

That makes the story of Karageorge all the more frightening.

Continued traumatic brain injuries triple the risk of early death. Numerous such injuries also put victims at a higher risk for suicide, depression and motor-skill problems. Karageorge believed he was feeling the adverse effects of multiple concussions, and stated so shortly before he apparently took his own life.

Fortunately, most people who suffer concussions recover fully, even though the effects on the brain can last days, weeks, or longer. These effects include difficulty thinking clearly, headaches, dizziness, and problems remembering new information and concentrating.

Hopefully, Karageorge’s death will prompt further efforts to improve how athletes are monitored and treated. It would be a fitting tribute for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to conduct further research on concussions in honor of Kosta Karageorge.

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