Gambling on the Big Game: The Risk of Concussions

Friday, February 4, 2011

A previous study of ex-NFL players showed that the damage caused by concussions occurs in the same region of the brain as damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, resulting in increased concern over post-concussion related injuries and trauma of athletes.

Philip Schatz Ph.D., professor of psychology, and his associates recently published a study in Neurosurgery that identifies potentially enduring effects of multiple previous concussions on high school students.  More specifically, Schatz and his colleagues propose through their research that teens with multiple concussions may already be demonstrating early signs of post-concussion syndrome.

“Our results show that high school athletes with a history of two or more concussions had significantly higher ratings of concussion related symptoms especially those that were cognitive, physical and sleep-related, than athletes with a history of zero or one previous concussion,” said Schatz.

The study, which evaluated over 2,500 high school athletes in three different states, assessed concussion symptom questionnaires that were administered during preseason testing.  Results indicate that high school athletes with two or more concussions had higher ratings on symptoms such as headaches, difficulty remembering things, dizziness, and an increase or decrease of sleep, as compared to athletes with none or one previous concussion.

Although the study was based on self report of concussion history and symptoms, during the preseason screening of healthy teenage athletes, he does say that the results are congruent with the recent studies on long-term concussion-related symptoms in professional athletes.  Schatz said, “The results suggest that there may be early indicators of post-concussion syndrome that is seen in professional athletes with multiple previous concussions.” He added that “these findings do not reflect any direct causal relationship, for example, it may be that athletes with multiple concussions are simply more familiar with concussion symptoms and terminology, or more sensitive to physical, cognitive, and emotional fluctuations.”

With all of the pageantry surrounding the biggest professional sporting event, the Super Bowl, looming, Schatz wants people to remember that concussions are a serious hazard. “Concussions are a real risk.  In many ways there is no way to prevent the concussion,” said Schatz.  “But if somebody sustains a concussion, the best thing is to monitor their symptoms and make sure that they are symptom free, and that they don’t return to play or practice until they have been seen by a qualified medical professional to clear them to practice or play.”

Media Contact

Schatz can be reached for comment at, 610-660-1804 or by calling University Communications at 610-660-1385.

Expand this section