By  Anthony G. Alessi, MD – Healthy Rounds


There are only two ways of dying suddenly in sports, cardiac and neurologic. The most common neurologic injury in athletics is concussion.


Concussion is best defined as “a syndrome of immediate and transient impairment of neurologic function secondary to mechanical forces.” It is the mildest instance in the spectrum of traumatic brain injury. Concussion is most commonly seen in violent collision sports like football, hockey and lacrosse. Unfortunately, many concussions go unreported, leaving athletes susceptible to more severe and potentially deadly injuries.

Typical signs of concussion include nausea, confusion, loss of consciousness, mood changes and uncoordinated motor function. Due to the nature of the injury, many athletes are unable to recognize that they have suffered a concussion. Close observation by teammates, coaches, officials and spectators is essential to identify the injury and remove the athlete from the contest.

Common symptoms of headache, amnesia, poor balance and light sensitivity may persist for days or months. This persistence leads to “Post Concussive Syndrome,” and may be permanent.

Another fear surrounding multiple concussions is the potential onset of “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.” This is a syndrome that includes dementia and behavioral changes that result from the cumulative effects of concussion.

The human brain continues to develop until the age of 18. During this period of growth, complex neural networks essential for thought and movement are being formed. Injury at this time may result in a lifetime of impaired function.

The most effective treatment of concussion is the immediate removal of the athlete from potential further harm. The brain has an impressive ability to heal itself with sufficient rest. The rest period includes abstaining from reading, computer and television viewing, text messaging and physical exertion.

Parents should consider directing young children away from violent collision sports until they are older. Sports that build athleticism, coordination and stamina may better serve athletic development.

Many parents believe that early exposure to physical contact will help build a successful professional sports career. More often, this plan leads to an untimely end of a high-level athletic career.

About the Author

Anthony G. Alessi, MD, MMM ,graduated from the University of Rome and completed his residency and neuromuscular fellowship at the University of Michigan. He is in private practice in Norwich, CT, specializing in neurology, electrodiagnostic medicine and sports neurology. He is board-certified in neurology and electrodiagnostic medicine. Dr. Alessi received his Masters degree in Medical Management from the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University in 2001.

He serves as a neurologic consultant to many athletic organizations including the University of Connecticut Athletic Department, Norwich Free Academy and the Connecticut State Boxing Commission. Dr. Alessi also serves as neurologic consultant to the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, CT Sun (WNBA) and Hartford Colonials (UFL).

>He is medical director of the William W. Backus Hospital Stroke Center, writes a syndicated column, “Healthy Sports,” for the Norwich Bulletin and is host of “Neuro Frontiers” on Reach MD XM 160 and “Healthy Rounds,” syndicated through WTIC 1080, the Hartford CBS affiliate.

Dr. Alessi’s book, “Healthy Sports: A Doctor’s Lessons for a Winning Lifestyle,” is a compilation of instructive columns. His most recent book, “Lift Up Your Hearts: Healing Haiti, Land of Hardship,” recounts the work of Dr. Alessi and other medical volunteers after the earthquake in Haiti. Reach him at

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Follow Us Online MagazineHealthy Rounds Medical ColumnHealth,SportsBy  Anthony G. Alessi, MD - Healthy Rounds   There are only two ways of dying suddenly in sports, cardiac and neurologic. The most common neurologic injury in athletics is concussion.   Concussion is best defined as 'a...Parenting Support | Family Fun Activities for Kids