With Veterans Day on Nov. 11, the Medical College of Wisconsin is highlighting its recent research into concussions suffered by military cadets at the nation's service academies. The college and partner universities also looked into concussions among college football players.
As part of that work, researchers studied cadets enrolled at the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard academies. Students there suffer concussions during common activities, such as physical education class, intramural sports and car crashes — but also during military exercises.
The volunteer cadets were divided into a group reporting at least one diagnosed and treated concussion, and a group whose concussion was not reported or treated. The latter had an elevated level of post-concussive symptoms like dizziness, nausea and fatigue, and slightly poorer performance with various mental activities.
Medical College Neurosurgery Professor Michael McCrea helped lead the study.
"It fits with a combination of work by our group, and our colleagues around the country and around the world, indicating that in fact, there are direct health benefits to the athlete, or in this case, the cadet, to come forward, tell us about your concussion immediately when you recognize the signs and symptoms. Then, we can make a proper assessment, and implement modern-day treatment and injury-management strategies to protect your health and safety," McCrea said.
He says researchers try to tell the cadets that the longer they wait to report a concussion, the longer they'll be held out of certain activities once the injury becomes known.
McCrea says the results may also lead to better prevention of concussions.
"When we understand where these injuries occur most often, maybe there's a modification to that type of activity in a military service academy setting that would reduce or prevent the number of concussions down the road," McCrea said.
The U.S Department of Defense and NCAA recently supplied another $22.5 million, so the Medical College of Wisconsin and its partners at Indiana University and the University of Michigan can continue to examine head injuries over the next few years.
Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.
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