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Brain injuries are nothing to take lightly. Springfield residents who’ve suffered from them often don’t realize just how long their effects can linger, or why they’re required to be completely symptom-free before getting back to their normal lives. The reason is to protect them from an often fatal condition called Second Impact Syndrome.

Second Impact Syndrome (or recurrent traumatic brain injury) describes those who suffer a second brain injury while still not having fully recovered from the first. These events are almost always fatal, even in those cases where the second brain injury was less severe than the first. The reason for this is because after an initial brain injury, alterations in the blood flow to brain create acute metabolic changes. This makes the brain itself vulnerable to further trauma as it works to return to its pre-injury metabolic function. Suffering a second traumatic event during this stage can cause the brain to lose its ability to auto-regulate intracranial pressure, which often leads to brain herniation and death.

The majority of the brain injuries that result in Second Impact Syndrome are concussions. This puts those who participate in activities where concussions are common, such as full-contact sports, at a greater risk of suffering from such an event. An eMedicine study shared by the National Institutes of Health showed that of high school football players studied who suffered catastrophic brain injuries, 71 percent had already suffered a concussion earlier in the same season. 39 percent were said to have been still displaying the effects of their initial concussions when they suffered the second one.

Family members of athletes or employees who’ve suffered concussions while working are thus strongly encouraged to fully heal before actively resuming any pre-injury activities, even if coaches or bosses are pressing them to get back into action.