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Brain micro-injuries targeted by sports doctors. Technology comes to the rescue

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Brain injuries are often ignored by athletes, even professional ones. However, they can have serious consequences for our health, and it is not only about severe concussion. Micro-injuries can also be dangerous. Scientists and doctors are watching them with increasing attention.

Based on a true story, the film “Concussion” starring Will Smith tells the story of a pathologist who discovers that due to frequent brain injuries, some American football players died prematurely. However, brain damage may also occur while practicing other, less contact sports.

– I had a concussion during the 2021 World Championships and another one a week later. I lay in the hospital for several days in a darkened room. I had difficulty getting out of bed. But you want to get out of there and back on the road as quickly as possible. Now I know not to rush it, admits Hattie Harden, mountain biker and England representative.

– I can't imagine practicing any other sport. I know that when you look at it from the outside, mountain biking looks like complete madness. But there is a saying that if you are not living on the edge, you are not living – adds Reece Wilson, former mountain bike world champion, representative of Scotland.

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Dangerous micro-injuries

For them, mountain biking is a whole life with all its consequences, including health ones. And it does not have to be a serious accident – even if the cyclist did not hit his head on a stone, daily, long-hour training on bumpy mountain trails can also lead to brain micro-injuries.

In Scotland, a group of professional mountain bikers are currently testing a device that monitors overload while riding. A small chip is attached to the helmet. It measures and counts the forces acting on the athlete's head. When the overload is too great, a warning system is activated.

– People don't know when they should stop or if they can keep going. They don't know if they were concussed or not. There are no pain receptors in the brain, but the information our device provides helps make the right decision, says Euan Bowen, founder and designer of HIT.

– Similar research is already being conducted in rugby. The challenge is to determine the allowable overloads. We don't have empirical evidence on this topic, so scientifically determining these values ​​is one of our goals, says Angus Hunter, a neurophysiologist at Nottingham Trent University.

How many times can a footballer head the ball to be safe?

How many times can a soccer player head the ball to be safe? The answer is not clear. According to doctors, the player's individual predispositions – bone mass or ability to regenerate – as well as exposure time, impact strength and previous injuries are important.

It is also known that in the case of women, the phase of the menstrual cycle is important. It has been observed that increased hormonal secretion increases the risk of concussion.

That's why in Wales, female rugby players are testing an app that helps detect worrying symptoms, which are then matched to the phase of the player's cycle.

– Thanks to the application, I know exactly what stage of the cycle I am in. And can I push myself at the gym, can I do a few extra reps, or should I give up? It's nice to push the limits of your abilities, but you also have to know your body and listen to it, says Natalia John, a rugby player.

– More and more women practice sports professionally. We want to learn about the specific performance potential of their bodies. We want to achieve the best results possible, but at the same time we need to understand all the signals that the body is sending, comments Jo Perkins, doctor of the Wales women's national rugby team.

An open leg fracture means immediate exclusion from the game, but temporary dizziness was often downplayed. Concussions are finally no longer a taboo in professional sports.

Author:Joanna Stempień

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Main photo source: Reuters

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