Dangers and Symptoms of Second Impact Syndrome After a Concussion
Posted on : July 12, 2018
by : Carlos Alvarez Tostado
Second Impact Syndrome is a traumatic brain injury that may occur when an athlete who hasn’t fully recovered from a concussion returns to play and receives a second blow to the head. In these circumstances, even a relatively minor second blow can lead to irreversible brain damage or death–sometimes within minutes. The condition occurs predominately in young athletes, ages 18 and under. To learn more about this rare yet dangerous condition, continue reading below.
What Happens in Second Impact Syndrome?
When an athlete receives a concussion, the soft tissue of the brain jolts against the skull, causing bruising, damage to blood vessels, and injury to the nerves. If the brain has not fully recovered from this damage and receives a second jolt, the tissues and blood vessels may swell very rapidly and causing the brain to become compressed inside the skull. When the swelling becomes too great, brain tissue shift or squeeze through tiny holes in the skull in a process called “herniation.” Herniation can cut off blood supply to the brain, which if not immediately remedied, leads to death.
Symptoms of Second Impact Syndrome
Identifying the symptoms of the initial concussion is just as important as recognizing those for Second Impact Syndrome, since the first injury leads to the second. Symptoms of concussion can include, a loss of consciousness, headache, visual, motor or sensory changes, dizziness, disorientation, difficulty concentrating and other problems with the thought and memory process. Depending on the severity of the concussion, it can take from a few hours to a few weeks to recover.
The symptoms for Second Impact Syndrome include loss of consciousness, dilated pupils, cessation of eye movement, coma, and respiratory failure. These life-threatening symptoms often occur within five minutes of the second blow, and medical professionals must provide immediate treatment to avoid death or permanent brain damage.
Persons at Risk for Second Impact Syndrome
Athletes are at highest risk for Second Impact Syndrome, particularly younger male athletes in high-impact sports. Studies show that as much as 95% of Second Impact Syndrome victims are under the age of 18 and there are no incidents of the syndrome in the adult population. Medical experts say that the younger the athlete, the longer it takes to recover from the concussion, most likely because their brains are still developing. Therefore, if they return to competition too soon, they are at high risk for Second Impact Syndrome.
Young football players are at particular risk for Second Impact Syndrome. According to HeadCase, a concussion management website, 47% of all sports concussion occur during high school football. Young ice hockey players have high incidents of concussions, as well as male and female soccer players, lacrosse players and male wrestlers.
Diagnosing Second Impact Syndrome
If a player displays symptoms of concussion or Second Impact Syndrome, he must receive medical assistance immediately. If he survives, a doctor must order an immediate computer tomography (CT) of the head to assess the existence or extent of brain injury. Other experts recommend a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect intracranial bleeding, though some say a CT can detect such bleeding better.
The doctor should also take a thorough medical history of the patient, paying particular attention to how the injury occurred and the patient’s history of other head injuries. If the patient is not conscious, the doctor should ask eyewitnesses or relatives.
Treatment for Second Impact Syndrome.
When Second Impact Syndrome truly occurs, death happens within minutes. Because the effects take place so quickly, the mortality rate is extremely high. Dr. Michael Turner, a scientist who led a case study on a 17-year old football player sufferer from Second Impact Syndrome, says as the mortality rate may be as high as 90 percent.
Treatment for signs of the syndrome must be quick. When a person is showing symptoms of Second Impact Syndrome, medical professionals must immediately attempt to stabilize the patient, and ensure that the airways remain functional to the extent possible with intubation.
After a CT scan corroborates brain swelling and pressure, a neurosurgeon must seek to lessen the pressure so that blood flow is not restricted. Possible treatments could include, hyperventilation, diuresis, fluid restriction, blood pressure control, steroids or surgery.
Prognosis for Second Impact Syndrome
As mentioned, the mortality rate for the syndrome is extremely high. Surviving patients may fully recover but are more likely to suffer from devastating neurological problems. Such problems may affect their speech, cognitive ability, sensory ability, vision, movement, perception, taste, smell and social and emotional interactions.
Preventing Second Impact Syndrome
The good news is that with due precaution, Second Impact Syndrome is preventable. Athletes with concussion systems must not return to competition until health care providers confirm that they have fully recovered.
In 2009, the state of Washington passed the Zackery Lystedt Law, in honor of a young football player left permanently brain-damaged from suspected Second Impact Syndrome. Among other things, this law requires that school-age athletes suspected of having sustained a concussion must be immediately removed from competition and may not to play until after a health care provider gives a full evaluation and provides written consent that the athlete can return to the game. Since then, forty-seven other states, including California, have passed similar measures. One hopes that with proper attention and due caution, we will see a decrease of Second Impact Syndrome incidents.
If you suspect a loved one has suffered from Second Impact Syndrome, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego brain injury attorney discussion your options. The personal injury lawyers at the Banker’s Hill Law firm can provide the compassion and effective help that you need. For a consultation, please call today at 619-230-0330.