Concussions: Blow to head has long-term effects

By Andy Cerota - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - Many things need to be tested when determining if a player suffered a concussion on the football field.

The player's level of alertness, balance, stability, focus and vision, along with every system in the body, should be evaluated.

Most of the time, this testing process is effective, but there are cases in which there is a lag in symptoms and they could be missed.

When someone experiences an injury like the one Texans quarterback Tom Savage suffered, abnormal signals are sent to the entire body, causing it to contract in an abnormal way.

"When you see something like that, you realize it’s not just the brain but the brain stem that’s involved," Dr. Greg McLauchlin, assistant professor of neurology at Baylor College of Medicine, said.

McLauchlin is a neurologist.

Though he’s not treating Savage, he sees injuries like his all the time.

He said severe impacts, like the one Savage experienced, are hard to recover from.

Savage was allowed to return to play despite the violent hit to the head that left him on his back with his hands twitching.

McLauchlin said the protocol in place isn’t perfect because it can be difficult to diagnose a concussion in just a few minutes.

If there's suspicion of one, he said, five minutes out of play would be the bare minimum and 10 minutes are what’s recommended.

"The only time when folks get extra attention is when there is some sort of red flag. I have to say, seeing the same video everyone else did, that posture he assumed was certainly a red flag for a longer, more careful evaluation," McLauchlin said.

McLauchlin said the real problems can show up later and include damage to the brain and the blood vessels around the brain.

The NFL is now reportedly looking to strengthen its protocol for assessing possible concussions.

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