Football Season is Back! Virtua Sports Medicine Physician Offers Critical Safety Tips
October 3, 2022 - Last week, football fans everywhere watched as Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa left a game by stretcher – a haunting yet familiar image. The professional athlete suffered head and neck injuries, including a concussion, according to several sources.
As a sports medicine physician with Virtua Orthopedics & Spine, Dr. Eric Requa knows the many health risks associated with football, particularly concussions. In fact, he was the team doctor for the Philadelphia Soul arena football team, and has treated both collegiate and high-school players at Virtua Health, South Jersey’s largest health system.
Concussions are one of the biggest concerns for athletes in contact sports, he says.
An estimated 300, 000 sports-related traumatic brain injuries, predominantly concussions, occur annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a study of high school athletes, about 40% of concussions resulted from playing football, reports the CDC.
"It is critical that players and coaches know the signs and symptoms of a concussion, some of which can be easy to miss,” says Dr. Requa. “The parents of young athletes must also be aware and informed in order to safeguard their children’s health.”
Common symptoms of a concussion include, but are not limited to, headache, drowsiness, dizziness, sensitivity to noise or light, emotional disturbances (such as feelings of sadness or irritability), and memory problems. Anyone with a suspected concussion should consult a medical professional immediately.
Although Dr. Requa would need to see a patient in order to diagnose a condition and recommend treatment, he offers these general tips:
- If an athlete has a suspected concussion (due to symptoms or exam findings by athletic-training staff or a doctor), that person should NOT return to play the same day, no matter what. More time is needed to fully assess the extent of an athlete’s injury and observe how symptoms develop.
- A gradual return to sports is necessary, particularly player-to-player contact. This is especially important because sometimes symptoms can arise days after the initial injury.
- Second impact syndrome (also called repetitive head injury syndrome) is a real concern, and something everyone from coaches to parents to athletic training staff must work together to protect against – as the consequences can be life-altering.
He also notes that Virtua Health’s Sports Injury Hotline – 844-678-7001 – can provide fast access to a specialist.
“Whether you are in youth football or are a professional, you must consider the long-term health of your brain and the consequences of traumatic brain injury,” says Dr. Requa.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Requa, another sports medicine specialist, or for any orthopedic issue, call 888-847-8823 or visit virtua.org/ortho. To learn more about the sports medicine program at Virtua Orthopedics & Spine, visit www.virtua.org/services/sports-medicine.