CONCUSSION AND LINKS TO TINNITUS
With nearly 20% of the adult population at any one time experiencing tinnitus more works need to be done to really understand the triggers and causes of tinnitus.
We have looked at the links between concussion and tinnitus and in particular high-risk activities that increase the risk of a concussion.
There is a link shown between concussion or head trauma and the occurrence of tinnitus. Below are some examples of research that has been undertaken in America.
It’s not surprising that America leads much of the research into tinnitus and its links with concussion or head and neck injuries and trauma. It is estimated that the number of people in America who experience tinnitus is nearly double the Australian population!
Over 45 million Americans struggle with tinnitus, making it one of the most common health conditions in the United States. Out of this group, roughly 20 million people struggle with burdensome chronic tinnitus, while 2 million have extreme and debilitating cases.
So what is a concussion?
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that usually happens after a blow to the head. It can also occur with violent shaking and movement of the head or body.
You don’t have to lose consciousness to get a concussion. It can take up to seven to ten days for post-concussion symptoms to occur. Current research is showing that concussion can be a trigger of your tinnitus.
Some of the interesting findings from America is shared below.
Oregon Health and Service University
Oregon Health and Service University conducted a study involving 2,400 patients suffering from chronic tinnitus. They found that more then 12% of the participates reported experiencing their tinnitus after head or neck injury.
From this group, a third had suffered neck injuries from whiplash while the other two-thirds suffered head injuries or a combination of head injuries leading to their tinnitus.
National Collegiate Athletic Association of North America
Nicholas et al reviewed data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association of North America (NCAA) Injury Surveillance Program from 2009 to 2014.
It included data from seven men’s sports and eight women’s sports across divisions one, two and three. Injuries resulting in concussions were analysed for audiovestibular symptoms, duration of symptoms, and return to participation times.
Audiovestibular symptoms include dizziness, imbalance, disorientation, noise sensitivity and tinnitus.
From the 1,647 recorded sports-related concussions they found that the athletics had experienced dizziness (68.2%), imbalance (35.8%), disorientation (31.4%), noise sensitivity (29.9%), and tinnitus (8.5%). Further information can be found from the below link.
Who is most at risk of getting a concussion?
The likelihood of concussion or head trauma increases if you participate in sport, particularly in high impact sport such as American or Australian football, soccer and boxing to name a few.
There is a growing concern in Australia and internationally about the incidence of sport-related concussion and potential health ramifications for athletes.
Concussion affects all athletes at all levels of sport from the part-time recreational athlete through to the full-time professional.
The AIS (Australian Institute for Sport) is collaborating with a number of organisation to better manage concussion in sport.
They are bringing together the most contemporary evidence-based information on concussion for athletes, parents, teachers and coaches in an effort to reduce the incidence of concussion in sport.
The collaborators in this initiative include:
- Australian Medical Association
- Australian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians
- Sports Medicine Australia
High-risk sports, such as professional collision sports need to ensure that medical personnel are appropriately trained in the detection and management of concussion.
The increased awareness of sport-related concussion and the associated community concern mean many more sporting organisations are developing policies and guidelines for the management of the condition.
We understand that the Australian Football League (AFL) are also looking into undertaking some research.
From the article below it is clear the media and the public are becoming much more aware of the risks.
We are seeing more clubs and sports seeking to protect their players and have a clear and consistent policy approach to managing a concussion.
Any player who has suffered a concussion or is suspected of having a concussion must be medically assessed as soon as possible after the injury and is not be allowed to return to play in the same game/practice session.
In May 2019 in Australia, the following sports had policies available on their websites
- Australian Football League
- Australian Rugby
- Basketball Australia
- Boxing Australia
- Football Federation Australia
- Gridiron Australia
- Olympic Winter Institute of Australia
How to prevent a concussion?
The only known way to prevent a concussion is to avoid the head injury in the first place. Clearly, this is not always possible as you can’t always prepare for every potential situation.
Since you can’t always prevent concussion below are some tips that you can take steps to reduce the likelihood of it occurring and to reduce its severity.
- Fasten your seat belt whenever you’re travelling in a car, and be sure children are in age-appropriate safety seats. Children under 13 are safest riding in the back seat, especially if your vehicle has airbags.
- Use helmets, many sports and activities require helmets to protect and reduce the risk of a severe concussion. Ensure the helmets fits well and is secure, so it doesn’t move when you shake your head. The helmet must be appropriate for the sport or activity you are participating in.
- Mouth guard, its role in preventing a concussion is inconclusive as of May 2019. Some studies have shown the benefits of mouth guard use in preventing concussions, and others have shown there is no correlation between mouth guard use and the reduction of concussion in sports. While it may not be possible to show that mouth guards are beneficial in reducing concussion, there is certainly no harm in an athlete wearing one. If anything it will help reduce dental trauma as well as lacerations to the mouth.
- Take action at home to prevent falls, such as removing small area rugs, improving lighting, stair gates at the top of stairs and installing handrails.
More research needs to be undertaken in the links between concussion and tinnitus, but there is clearly a correlation between head trauma or concussion and the incidence of tinnitus.
Since the incidence of concussion increases through many sporting activities it is pleasing to see more sports and clubs do take this seriously. However many have a long way to go!