Surgeon Answers Concussion Questions

Striking a blow against concussions, the latest #OurDocTalk focused on educating parents of young athletes, information on how soon it’s safe to resume activity after a concussion, and the potential long-term impacts of brain injury.

NorthBay Healthcare Trauma Medical Director and Surgeon J. Peter Zopfi, D.O., fielded a half dozen questions from followers on the NorthBay Facebook page during the half-hour chat.

“Should soccer players be allowed to head the ball?” asked one person.

“Yes, depending on their age,” Dr. Zopfi noted. “Children under 12 years of age should not head the ball. Beginning at 12 years of age, they should be taught the proper technique for heading and then slowly advance their skills in competition.”

One Facebook fan asked about a child with a concussion. “How long after a concussion should you wait before resuming normal activity?” she asked.

“He should follow a gradual return to play format supervised by a medical professional trained in concussion management,” wrote Dr. Zopfi. “Most initial concussions require seven to 10 days before resuming physical activity and only after resolution of all concussion-related symptoms.

A few of the questions focused on understanding the potential long-term impact of concussions.

“In light of the brain damage now being found in NFL players, what are the potential long-term effects of concussions sustained in two auto crashes 50 years ago?” asked one.

“Long-term effects would depend on the severity of the initial concussions,” noted Dr. Zopfi. “If 50 years has transpired and no significant symptoms have developed, the likelihood of permanent damage is less but not completely zero.”

The text of the chat is still available on the NorthBay Facebook page (Facebook.com/NorthBayHealthcare) and here is an edited transcript:

Q.: Should soccer players be allowed to head the ball?

Dr. Zopfi: Yes depending on their age. Children under 12 years of age should not head the ball. Beginning at 12 years of age, they should be taught the proper technique for heading and then slowly advance their skills in competition.

Q.: I know someone who has experienced 5-6 concussions from hitting their head over a 20 year period. They experienced a mild tbi which resulted in chronic migraines after the last. What does the research say about their risk of dementia and their risk of future concussions?

Dr.Zopfi: Research is not clear about the exact risk of dementia secondary to concussions but more studies are supporting that significant TBI (i.e. NFL football episodes) results in long term damage. Realistically, the more concussions, the more risk of long-term damage to the brain.

Comment: What a wonderful Doctor! He has taken care of my Mom and my husband, I think the world of him!!!!

Dr. Zopfi: Thank you. My privilege and honor.

Comment: Great physician. Worked with him at The Vacaville Surgery Center. Very personable and superb medical knowledge....

Dr. Zopfi: Thank you.
Response: You're welcome.

Q.: My son is nine years old. How long after a concussion should you wait before resuming normal activity?

Dr. Zopfi: He should follow a gradual return to play format supervised by a medical professional trained in concussion management. Most initial concussions require 7 to 10 days before resuming physical activity and only after resolution of all concussion related symptoms.

Q.: When you’re in a car accident what are signs to look for in the hours afterwards being that often times you feel fine?

Dr. Zopfi: Delayed symptoms after concussions are common. The most common are headache, visual problems, nausea, difficulty concentrating, and imbalance. Most people just "don't feel right".

Q.: In light of the brain damage now being found in NFL players, what are the potential long term effects of concussions sustained in two auto crashes 50 years ago?

Dr. Zopfi: Long term effects would depend on the severity of the initial concussions. If 50 years has transpired and no significant symptoms have developed, the likelihood of permanent damage is less but not completely zero.

Q.: What is your advice for "stingers"?

Dr. Zopfi: "Stingers" can indicate cervical or upper thoracic spine injuries. All "stingers" should be evaluated by a medical professional including full neurologic exams and possibly x-ray studies.

Comment: The best doctor there is!!

Dr, Zopfi: Thank you.