Q Can a person fully recover from brain injuries sustained while playing sports?

— Lucas Kopietz, Omaha, Nebraska

A Dr. Claudia Reardon, psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison specializing in sports psychiatry:

There’s been a lot in the news about the potentially devastating consequences of concussions when athletes such as football players suffer them.

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A concussion is defined as a traumatic blow to the head coupled with some kind of altered consciousness. Some people refer to it as seeing stars, or getting your bell rung. People may feel disoriented for a period of time.

The good news is if an athlete allows sufficient recovery after suffering a concussion and before returning to play, the damage done to the brain is likely entirely reversible.

Problems arise when an athlete suffers a concussion and returns to a sport before being fully recovered. The athletes may still be having symptoms of the concussion, return to their sport and then suffer another concussion. Multiple concussions without full recovery in between may result in permanent irreversible damage.

More research needs to be done on whether there’s cumulative damage from multiple concussions, even those that are suffered with apparently full recovery in between.

One big problem is it’s not clear what full recovery looks like when you start to talk about multiple concussions suffered by a single athlete.

Blue Sky Science is a collaboration of the Wisconsin State Journal and the Morgridge Institute for Research.

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