Concussions and Sports Head Injuries

Concussions and Sports Head Injuries

head injuries

Sports are a part of everyday life in the United States. Unfortunately, along with sports comes sports injuries, specifically concussions.

At Vision Specialists of Michigan, our experts are very familiar with diagnosing and treating the conditions that can arise from a concussion. In this article we will highlight concussion symptoms, the role of Binocular Vision Dysfunction, explore the correlation between sports concussions and gender, as well as discuss how these types of injuries can be prevented.

Concussion Symptoms to Watch Out For

Did you know that you can sustain a concussion without being knocked unconscious and even without taking a blow to the head? A sudden collision that causes the head to snap back can have the same result.

In addition, many people do not realize that the signs of a concussion don’t always appear right away. It may take up to a week after impact for concussion symptoms to begin manifesting, but these symptoms can persist for weeks or even months at a time. The signs and symptoms that are important to be aware of include:

Mild Symptoms:

  • Tiredness/fatigue
  • Headaches & dizziness
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Light sensitivity
  • Anxiety
  • Neckache
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Reading problems

More Severe Symptoms

  • Slurred speech
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Loss of memory surrounding the
    occurence that led to the concussion
  • Seeming confused or dazed or in a fog

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should see a doctor to be sure nothing dangerous has occured. If these symptoms persist for more than three months, the patient is said to have Post-Concussive Syndrome.

Concussions and Binocular Vision Dysfunction

When a concussion occurs, diffuse damage is done to the brain. Any part of the brain can be injured, which is why there are so many different types of symptoms associated with concussions. One part of the brain that is frequently injured is the visual system, resulting in Binocular Vision Dysfunction (BVD), where the two eyes have difficulty working smoothly together as a team due to a slight misalignment. While this misalignment can be very subtle, it can make it incredibly difficult for our eyes to send one clear image to our brain.

Here’s what happens when someone has BVD: With two eyes, we are able to see one clear image. This is because our brain is able to transform the images seen by each eye into a single image, which is known as binocular vision.

In patients with BVD, there is a slight misalignment between their eyes resulting in their eyes being out of sync with one another, causing the brain to have a very difficult time processing those two separate images to form one clear image.

The result? The brain forces the eye aligning muscles to fix the problem by realigning the eyes. But the realignment is only temporary and misalignment then recurs, which is followed closely by realignment, and the cycle of misalignment and realignment continues. Over time, this places an immense amount of strain on the eye muscles and leads to dizziness and difficulty reading, as well as a variety of other symptoms.

Do you have BVD?

The Link Between Gender and Sports Concussions

If you’re a sports fan and frequently watch sports coverage on TV or read about it online, you may think that sports concussions are more often sustained by male athletes. After all, men do get the majority of coverage in such cases. However, a study in Psychology Today shows that this isn’t the case, and that it is in fact female athletes that are at a higher risk of sustaining sports concussions than men. (see here)

Due to the fact that male-dominated sports – think basketball and football – receive more attention than women’s sports, the coverage of sports-related injuries in the media is somewhat slanted. When football is taken out of the picture (which is understandably the sport where a majority of concussions occur), it is shown that women’s sports may be the more dangerous, particularly soccer. Female soccer players, in fact, report almost twice as many concussions as their male counterparts, according to the above-mentioned study. And for younger players, girls’ soccer has the second-highest incidence of concussions among all youth sports. Further, for every 1,000 games and practices, female soccer players sustain an average of 2.2 concussions, while the men had an average of 1.4, according to the NCAA. In addition, female basketball players had an average of 1.2 concussions, as compared to male players with an average of 0.6.

It’s important for both athletes and parents of athletes to be aware that gender plays a significant role in the likelihood of experiencing post-concussive syndrome and other sports-related head injuries. By knowing and understanding how gender affects the probability of these injuries occurring, both you and the athletes you parent will be better able to prevent them from happening.

What Causes The Higher Rate of Concussions Among Female Athletes?

While these statistics about concussions are intriguing, they don’t do much to explain the higher rate of occurrence among female athletes. One theory posits that the disparity is due to the fact that the female neck is typically thinner and weaker than a male’s, which makes it more susceptible to injury from impact. Another factor that could contribute to the higher rate of concussions among women is the fact that the female head tends to be smaller than that of a male.

Female hormones are thought to play a role as well, leading women to experience symptoms like dizziness and nausea – common after a concussion – more acutely than men. Because of this, women tend to report and seek treatment for concussion symptoms more often than men, which in turn has an impact on the statistics.

Preventing Head Trauma in Sports

It goes without saying that the best way to prevent sports-related head injuries is by wearing the appropriate protective gear for the sport. In addition, when a head injury is sustained, no matter how minor, it’s crucial for the athlete to take the time to rest and recover for a spell before returning to impact sports. If the injury isn’t given enough time to heal, the damage from a repeat head injury could be even more severe.

It’s also very important to know about and be able to recognize concussive symptoms. While some collisions that cause head trauma may seem minor and not worth worrying about, there could be serious underlying damage that’s not readily apparent. If you or your young athlete feel disoriented, confused or experience blurred vision, migraines or nausea at any point after a sports-related head injury, seek the help of a medical professional without delay.

Get Treated at Vision Specialists of Michigan

While concussions can be very serious, the majority will heal with time. If a second concussion were to be sustained before the first is fully healed, however, permanent damage could result. This is why it’s extremely important for athletes to be honest and open about their symptoms, and for coaches to put their players’ welfare ahead of the game. So until a doctor gives you a clean bill of health, stay off the field!

Additionally, TBI and headaches, along with other neurovisual symptoms, go hand-in-hand. If you or a loved one have experienced a TBI and are still having post-concussive symptoms, contact our team at Vision Specialists of Michigan. If BVD is causing your visual symptoms, our micro-prism lenses just might be the solution you need.

Want to learn more about Binocular Vision Dysfunction?

Watch these videos of BVD patient experiences:

Bumping into Walls, Learning and Reading Challenges: Daria’s Binocular Vision Story

Robin’s Traumatic Brain Injury: “Can I still be a nurse?”

Veteran’s Story of Binocular Vision Dysfunction and Triumph over TBI

Watch the Latest Video Testimonials

Daily Stomach Ache, Headache, Nausea:

Christine's Binocular Vision Dysfunction Story

Headaches and Learning Challenges:

Kali's Binocular Vision Dysfunction Story

Years of Daily Headaches, Nausea, and Dizziness:

Cynthia's Binocular Vision Dysfunction
It may be your eyes

  • American Academy Optometry
  • American Optometric Association
  • Michigan Optometric Association
  • VEDA
  • Neuro Optometry Rehabilitation Association

Dr. Sandy DiPonio earned her optometry degree from Illinois College of Optometry in 1996. She is a highly skilled and experienced eye care professional dedicated to giving her patients of all ages excellent and compassionate care. She has a wide variety of experience in binocular vision, pediatric and adult eye care, ocular disease and contact lens fitting. She strives to provide each of her patients the best quality of life they can achieve with their vision through knowledge and education of treatment options.

Dr. DiPonio is a member of the American Optometric Society and Michigan Optometric Society.

Dr. Sally Hoey has been practicing optometry since graduating from Michigan College of Optometry in 2001. During her time in optometry school, she developed an interest in binocular vision, culminating in a senior thesis involving binocular vision.

Prior to joining Vision Specialists of Michigan, Dr. Hoey specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of vision-related learning problems as well as other binocular vision disorders. Her other areas of interest include specialty contact lens fittings and treating dry eye. Dr. Hoey strives to provide her patients with clear, comfortable vision while meeting their individual needs at the same time.

Dr. Hoey had the opportunity to provide eye care on an optometric mission trip to Guyana, South America and vision screenings at a local medical clinic. She is a member of the American Optometric Association, Michigan Optometric Association, Metropolitan Detroit Optometric Society and the College of Optometrists in Vision Development.

Dr. Jennifer Place graduated with honors from Michigan College of Optometry in 2001.

Before joining Vision Specialists of Michigan, she specialized in treating pediatric and adult patients with binocular vision disorders and vision-related learning problems, as well as fitting specialty contact lenses and managing various types of ocular disease. She enjoys working with patients with unique visual needs, and she takes great pride in providing all patients with highly customized care.

Dr. Place has volunteered for Opening Eyes, a program that provides eye exams to the athletes of the Michigan Special Olympics, and she participated in an international mission to St. Lucia to provide eye care to those in need. Dr. Place is a member of the Detroit Optometric Society, the Michigan Optometric Association, the American Optometric Association, the College of Vision Development, and the Optometric Extension Program Foundation.

Dr. Mary Jo Ference has been practicing optometry since 1990 upon graduating from Ferris State University- Michigan College of Optometry, and is certified in Low Vision Rehabilitation. She has worked at Sinai-Grace Hospital systems for over 20 years before joining Vision Specialists of Michigan in 2013 to work with binocular vision disorders. Her clinical areas of expertise include visual rehabilitation of pediatric and adult patients who have suffered from brain trauma, injury or disease. She has taught both optometry and ophthalmology residents at Sinai Grace Hospital. Dr. Ference has sat on numerous boards, including Sinai Grace Hospital, Berry Out-Patient Surgical Center, and Seedlings Braille Books for the Blind. She is actively involved in area school districts to provide education, training and access for students, teachers, OT’s and PT’s to eye care service rehabilitation information. Dr. Ference has lectured extensively nationally and internationally.

Dr. Debby Feinberg began practicing Optometry in Oakland County in 1983, upon graduating from Illinois College of Optometry. She joined her father, Dr. Paul C. Feinberg, at Mall Optical Center, which was located in Summit Place Mall.

Since 1995 Dr. Feinberg has been developing the field of NeuroVisual Medicine which is the optometric subspecialty that identifies and treats neurological / medical symptoms that originate directly or indirectly in the visual system.

Dr. Feinberg has been performing pioneering work with Binocular Vision Dysfunction (BVD), a condition where a vision misalignment (frequently subtle) creates difficulties with the two eyes working together to create a single 3-dimensional image, and difficulties with the two eyes following that image as it moves.

The symptoms caused by BVD are not usually associated with problems with the visual system, and include headache, dizziness, anxiety and panic, persistent post-concussive symptoms, gait instability and balance problems, frequent falls, neck pain, motion sickness, nausea, and reading and learning problems.

In 2004. Dr. Feinberg established Vision Specialists of Birmingham, specifically designing the practice to accommodate the needs of the NeuroVisual Medicine patient.

In 2011, the office moved to its current location in Bloomfield Hills and updated its name to Vision Specialists of Michigan.