Penney’s Two Cents: Whole lotta shakin’… - Wyoming Medical Center

Penney’s Two Cents: Whole lotta shakin’ going on in heads of young athletes

By Don Penney, M.D. Dec 29, 2014

Save the date, Jan. 19: Wyoming Medical Center and Natrona County School District present a public concussion talk for parents, athletes, coaches and physicians

Sports equipment

In terms of sports concussions, there’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on -- to the tune of about 300,000 per year. If you count injuries from recreational sports as well, the number increases to about 750,000 per year.

The word “concuss” is latin for "to shake," and that is the underlying mechanism that causes concussions. The average brain weighs approximately 3 pounds and has the consistency of Jell-O. When an athlete is struck with enough force, the viscous brain is set in motion resulting in shaking of the brain within the rigid skull. This shaking can cause neurological symptoms such as headache, nausea, dizziness, memory loss (amnesia) and difficulty carrying out sequenced actions.

In the past, most concussions were not diagnosed because it was believed an athlete had to lose consciousness to have a concussion. Not true. Research over the last decade has shown that most concussions do not result in a loss of consciousness. Much of this research comes not only from the field of sports medicine, but from the military. Many of our deployed soldiers suffer concussions as a result of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) exploding near or under armored vehicles.


John Howell

On Jan. 19, Wyoming Medical Center is partnering with Natrona County School District to present “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On: Changing the Culture around Concussion for Athletes of all Sports.” We’ll teach parents, athletes, coaches and physicians to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussion while outlining the medical recommendations when concussion is suspected. We’ll also have two stars from the 2002 Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers, wide receiver Joe Jurevicius and safety John Howell, who will share their own stories.

Contrary to popular belief, concussions do not require a blow to the head. Any sudden stop or swift change in direction (like a fall to the ground at high speed or a hard tackle at midfield) that causes a whip-lash like motion to the head and neck can cause a concussion. In college football, 35 percent of concussions have no impact to the head.

Joe Jurevicius

Joe Jurevicius

Major efforts by professional sports organizations to diagnose athletes who have suffered concussions has certainly brought national attention to this important problem. The National Football League, National Hockey League and many college teams have stepped up their training of coaches, trainers, therapists and team doctors to be attentive to the signs and symptoms of concussions. Currently, there are close to 40 different published classifications of concussions and return-to-competition guidelines. This information has been disseminated throughout hospital emergency rooms and clinics to assist medical personnel in their recommendations as to when an athlete is safe to return to play.

Unfortunately, concussions still occur and go unrecognized, and they can result in a post-concussive syndrome that can plague an athlete for months. Concussions are cumulative. The lingering effects can cause sleep disturbance and or chronic traumatic encephalopathy(CTE), a progressive degenerative disease of the brain.

Sports participation is a rewarding and productive experience with many benefits. I know. I played hockey for years while growing up in Canada. But, to prevent the most severe consequences of concussion, athletes must know when they’ve actually suffered from one. And they must be honest about it. Telling your coach or athletic trainer when you suspect you have suffered a concussion is the first step in getting the medical attention you need.

If you go ...
  • What: Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On: Changing the Culture around Concussion for Athletes of all Sports.
  • When: 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 19
  • Where: Parkway Plaza, 123 W. E St.
  • Who: Presenters include Don Penney, a neurosurgeon with Wyoming Brain and Spine Associates in Casper; Dr. Clayton Turner, orthopedic surgeon; John Howell, safety of the 2002 Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers; and Joe Jurevicius, 2002 Super Bowl champion Buccaneers’ wide receiver.
  • Meet-and-greet: Stay after the presentation for autographs, door prizes and refreshments. We will give away tickets to Denver Broncos, Nuggets and Avalanche games.
  • Cost: Free


“Penney’s Two Cents” in an occasional column by neurosurgeon Don Penney, M.D., of Advantage Orthopedics and Neurosurgery, 419 S. Washington St., Suite 201. Call (307) 233-0250 for a consult or referral.

Dr. Penney has more than 30 years experience in neurosurgery. He trained in and practiced emergency medicine at the University of Illinois and Cook County Hospital in Chicago and joined the teaching staff as an Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery. He was also a full professor of emergency medicine at Medical College of Georgia, Augusta. In 2006, he helped establish the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Georgia Chapter where he directed the neuroscience program. He has authored numerous chapters in textbooks and scientific papers in addition to delivering multiple national lectures for the American College of Emergency Medicine.