New study at UK shedding light on teens and concussion

Lexington, Ky. (WKYT)- Concussions are becoming a common injury among high school athletes, with football leading the way. In fact in the last seven years statistics show concussions among teens have more than doubled, not necessarily because sports are more dangerous rather more attention is being focused on the injury. WKYT's Amber Philpott has more on how researchers at the University of Kentucky are working to better understand concussions and how to treat them.

Every Friday night in the fall hundreds of Kentucky high school students hit the football field with big dreams, ready to take the hits to carry their teams to victory.

18-year-old Michael Wash is one of those.

"I've been playing since kindergarten till now," said Michael Wash of Owen County.

Wash plays for Owen County High School had dreams of playing college football, that is until one hit was too many.

"I don't remember the game or much after it," said Wash.

It was a scrimmage his junior year, Wash took a hit and never said anything, until the next week when he took an even harder hit.

"A concussion wasn't even on my radar at all, I was thinking he was dehydrated. The second hit, the second game the following week I knew as soon as I looked in his eyes," said Karen Wash, Michael's Mother.

"After not being able to concentrate on school work, repeatedly asking questions over and losing weight, Michael's family said no more football. His story is not unlike many doctors at UK's Concussion program see," said Amber Philpott with WKYT.

"In the state of Kentucky we cover a lot of young athletes between the ages of 12 to 17 or so," said Dr. Dan Han, The Director of the Multidisciplinary Concussion Program at UK.

Han and doctoral student Lisa Koehl are working to better understand concussions, something they have both experienced while playing contact sports.

"I was pretty competitive in high school, I ended up with about four pretty nasty concussions during that time period," said Lisa Koehl, a UK Doctoral student.

Together the two are studying the symptoms that can vary following a concussion.

The research looked at 37 athletes ages 12-17 studying changes in physical, emotional and cognitive symptoms over a 37 day period.

Twenty two of the participants had post-concussive emotional symptoms like aggression, anxiety or depression. Of those, 23 percent were sensitive to light while 14 percent were sensitive to noise.

Bottom line.

"We did find that sensitivity to light and noise were highly related to having emotional distress because of the concussion," said Dr. Dan Han.

While a more comprehensive study needs to be done, the findings though are important. The researchers hope this is a step in the right direction which could change how teen concussions are managed and treated.

"The main point here is that most individuals will recover from sports concussions. So its important and something you can get beyond and return to sports pretty soon, but we do need to have a better understanding of what the symptoms are," said Koehl.

Until then Michael Wash is on the sidelines.

"Its not worth the debilitating injury later on down the road," said Karen Wash.

Han and Kale also found that teens with anxiety after a concussion were more likely to experience attention difficulties.

The concern is that if not treated properly, a student's school work can suffer and possibly limit them later in life.

As for Michael Wash, football is on hold as he continues to determine the extent of his concussions.

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