The Impact of Second-Impact Syndrome

The Impact of Second-Impact Syndrome

Second-Impact is a Game-Changer

It’s almost time to kick off the football season, which means that traumatic brain injuries (TBI) start swarming the stats. During the season, it’s common for concussions to occur, and yet, many continue to play the game – yes, while hurt. This puts players at risk for permanent damage, or for what’s called, Second-Impact Syndrome (SIS).

What is SIS?

Second-Impact Syndrome takes place when a person suffers a second concussion before the previous concussion has healed. As a result, the brain rapidly swells, and could possibly become a brain herniation, which is when brain tissue, cerebrospinal fluid, and blood vessels are moved or pressed away from their usual position inside the skull.

The brain is already vulnerable enough, so a “second impact” to an even more vulnerable brain is nothing to just brush off.

Why is SIS Dangerous?

Although it’s relatively rare, Second Impact Syndrome is an extremely serious condition that can drastically change one’s life – or even take it. According to Sullivan, J.A., and Anderson, S.J. (2000), SIS is most often reported in boxers and football players, as these are some of the most high-impact sports.

Because neither hit needs to be severe, athletes who don’t receive proper evaluation after a head injury may not be adequately diagnosed as having a concussion and therefore don’t take appropriate measures, putting themselves at an increased risk of the second hit.  

Second-Impact Symptoms

Symptoms of the syndrome can appear within days or weeks of the incident, or in the same game in which it occurred. Athletes do not always lose consciousness, but may seem shocked for a moment. After a few minutes, it’s possible for the athlete to pass out, which has its own dangers. Because second impact syndrome occurs after a primary concussion, perhaps the most important symptoms and signs to look for are indications of an initial concussion in order to prevent a second concussion. The following are among the most common symptoms:

  • Visual changes (dilated pupils, loss of eye movement)
  • Headache
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Respiratory failure
  • Loss of balance


Safety from Second Impact

Preventing Second Impact is pretty simple: Recognize when you experience the first impact, and then take the appropriate steps to healing.

That means, everyone around must know how to spot the signs of a head injury from the start. After that first impact, the athlete must have immediate rest, without returning to any sports or strenuous activity until cleared to do so by a doctor. Always take the necessary safety precautions to avoid head injuries, such as helmets and other safety equipment.

Hit the sidelines, before you head back to the frontline, and always play with safety in mind.