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Concussions are More Common and Difficult to Recognize than You May Think

Date: 09.20.2011
Contact: Erica Rosenthal Phone: (330) 375-3052

Contact: Erica Rosenthal, Phone: (330) 375-3052, Email:                    

AKRON, Ohio, Sept. 20, 2011– With fall sports season in full swing, Summa Health System urges parents, coaches and athletes to play it safe this season.

This fall, as football and soccer players are padding themselves up and wrestlers are perfecting their moves, the Summa Center for Sports Health will be busy diagnosing and treating an increased number of patients with concussions.

“During football season, I see approximately three to four concussion cases per week,” said Tom Bartsokas, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Summa Health System and team physician at Ravenna High School and Kent State University.

A common – and dangerous – misconception among football players in particular is that their helmets will protect them from any on-field injury. Though it will protect athletes in some cases, coaches should teach players the correct way to tackle and to not lead with the head.

Often times, people think concussions are easily recognizable; but they are sometimes difficult to detect. Medically, concussions are defined as a brain injury that can result from a forceful hit, fall or blow that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. Though concussions commonly result from a blow to the head, they can also occur after a shoulder or other body part is hit – even if the athlete maintains consciousness.

“For some athletes, they know when they have a concussion and yet they choose to ignore the symptoms and continue playing,” Dr. Bartsokas said. “It’s important for athletes to be honest with the sports medicine team and to report symptoms so that appropriate action may be taken.”

The following symptoms of a sports-related concussion may occur immediately or hours after an injury:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Lack of awareness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor attention and concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Irritability
  • Hypersensitivity to lights or noise
  • Memory problems

Though different treatment options are available depending on the severity of the head injury, the most important treatment is rest.

“A small percentage of athletes may need to undergo vestibular testing, especially if symptoms such as dizziness progress,” said Ryan Lynch, D.O., neurologist at Summa and co-director of The Brain Injury Program at Neurology & Neuroscience Associates. “This testing helps determine why an athlete is experiencing dizziness and/or vertigo and if the source is the brain, inner ear and/or cervical spine.” Once diagnosed, Dr. Lynch works with other specialists, such as physical therapists, and coordinates treatment services as needed.

Summa physical therapist Debra Canuto and her team of specialists also encourage athletes to not dismiss these additional vestibular concerns. “Athletes require a highly functioning vestibular system, which involves the inner ear, brain, vision apparatus and somatosensory system. A concussion can interrupt the integration of these systems in subtle ways which can impair athletic performance and expose an athlete to further injury.”

For more information, please visit the Summa Center for Sports Health and Summa Neurosciences Services.

About Summa Health System
Summa Health System is one of the largest integrated healthcare delivery systems in Ohio. Encompassing a network of hospitals, community health centers, a health plan, a physician-hospital organization, a multi-specialty physician organization, research and multiple foundations, Summa is nationally renowned for excellence in patient care and for exceptional approaches to healthcare delivery. Summa's clinical services are consistently recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (Magnet® status), U.S. News and World Report, Thomson Reuters and The Leapfrog Group. Summa also is a founding partner of the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron. For more information, visit or find us on Facebook at and Twitter at