Sports Concussion - Memory Loss
Getting Your Bell Rung

By M. CHRIS WOLF, PH.D.

Sports concussion is an important issue among college athletes.

Poor verbal memory has been linked to concussion sustained by college athletes according to a recent study reported at the World Congress on Exercise Is Medicine, in Denver.

A concussion is also referred to as a mild traumatic brain injury, mild head injury, minor head trauma or mild brain injury.

These terms are frequently used interchangeably by brain injury specialist. At this time no single definition of concussion is universally acknowledged

A concussion includes physical, emotional and cognitive (thinking) symptoms. Headache is the most common physical symptom. Other physical symptoms can include blurred vision, dizziness, balance problems and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

Emotional symptoms can include, agitation, anxiety, sleep problems, depression, irritability and impulsivity.

Cognitive symptoms may include deficits in information processing speed, attention, concentration and memory.

There are different levels or “Grades” of concussion ranging from no loss of consciousness (-LOC) and post-trauma amnesia of less than 30 minutes to LOC of grater than 5 minutes or amnesia of greater than 24 hours.

Most symptoms of concussion go away within and week or two but can last three months or more.

A disorder known as Post-concussion syndrome or PCS, is a cluster of the symptoms described above that a person may experience for weeks, months, or occasionally up to a year or more after a concussion

Prolonged PCS occurs in less than 15 percent of uncomplicated concussions.

Concussion in sports was the subject of a recent study by researcher Robert Gardner of Elon University in North Carolina. He studied 100 male and female college football and soccer players. The research was reported at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, in Denver.

Consistent with other research, the study found decreased cognitive processing, specifically verbal memory following sports concussion.

Winter sports is another area where concussions occur frequently. Health officials say winter sports enthusiasts can protect themselves by wearing a helmet. For example, in one report two-thirds of brain injury victims in Utah were not wearing a helmet at the time of their accident.

The same reported indicated that snow sports rank fourth among causes for major brain injuries in Utah. Snow sports followed bicycles crashes, ATV or dirt bike accidents, and horse accidents.

According to research done at the University of Rochester, helmets can play a major role protecting people for confussions. Helmets:

  • protects the skull at point of impact,
  • absorbs, redistributes and release energy rapidly,
  • cushioning in the helmet reduces head impact,

Bottom Line: Wear a helmet.


For a detailed discussion of different types of memory go to:

Causes of Memory Loss-Memory Defined

For more information of sports concussion consider these resources:

Concussions in Sports: Protecting the Players (Sports and Athletics Preperation, Performance, and Psychology) by William B. Magnus (Editor) and Linda J. Alonso.

Kids, Sports, and Concussion: A Guide for Coaches and Parents (The Praeger Series on Contemporary Health and Living) by William P. Meehan M.D.


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