Spotlight on sports safety


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) Student athletes are back on the field for fall sports, and they are the athletes who are most susceptible to concussions.

Sports concussions are brain injuries that need aggressive and comprehensive treatment by an experienced, specialized team like the one at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

The adult brain is a three-pound organ that floats in cerebral spinal fluid, which acts as a shock absorber for minor impacts. When an athlete’s head is struck, the brain can crash into the skull as well as twist or stretch. This disrupts the balance of chemicals in the brain and causes a cascading effect of chemical changes, especially in glucose levels, which cause the symptoms and cognitive problems.


  • Headache (85%) and dizziness (70-80%) are most commonly reported along with:
    • Nausea/Vomiting
    • Fatigue
    • Irritability
    • Tearfulness/Sadness
    • Feeling slowed down
    • Increased sleep
    • Decreased sleep
    • Feeling “foggy”
    • Decreased appetite
    • Sensitivity to light or noise
    • Blurred vision
    • Poor memory/concentration

Kids are at greater risk of getting concussions. The brain continues to develop until the age of 25, so it’s important to treat concussions to ensure normal brain growth and development. Research shows high school athletes take longer to recover compared to collegiate or professional athletes and may experience more severe symptoms and more neurological disturbances than their older counterparts.

There is promising research being done to help diagnose concussions. A blood test that’s being developed could help doctors diagnose concussions more quickly so they can begin treatment and potentially eliminate the need for CT scans.

The Mary Free Bed Sports Concussion Program started in 1995. It is comprised of a team of doctors, therapists, and others to comprehensively treat sports concussions and uses leading-edge technology such as the SMART Equitest. It also provides education to others involved in the recovery process, such as family members, athletic trainers, coaches, teachers, and employers.

As part of Mary Free Bed’s free Community Education Series, Dr. Bloom will present “Sports and Concussion: What Athletes Need to Know.” He will discuss diagnoses and treatment of concussion for weekend warriors and athletes of all ages, including when it’s safe to return their sport. The event is on Monday, September 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Mary Free Bed YMCA in Grand Rapids.

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