WEDNESDAY, Jan. 2 (HealthDay News) -- After taking a hard hit to the head during a football game, an Indiana high school student suffered severe headaches for the next three days. Following a head CT scan that was normal, his doctor told him to wait to go back on the field until he felt better.
But the boy returned to practice, where he suffered a devastating brain injury called second impact syndrome.
More than six years later, Cody Lehe, now 23, is mostly wheelchair-bound and struggles with diminished mental capacity. Yet he's fortunate to be alive: Second impact syndrome is fatal in about 85 percent of cases.
"It's a unique syndrome of brain injury that appears in high school and younger athletes when they have a mild concussion, and then have a second head impact before they're over the symptoms of their first impact. This leads to massive brain swelling almost immediately," said Dr. Michael Turner, a neurosurgeon at Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, and co-author of a new report on Cody's case, published Jan. 1 in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.
The case study illustrates why it's so important to prevent a second impact and give a young brain the chance to rest and recover, another expert said.
"Second impact syndrome is a very rare phenomenon. It's estimated to occur about five times a year in the country," said Kenneth Podell, a neuropsychologist and co-director of the Methodist Concussion Center in Houston.
"What makes this [study] unique: They're the first ones to actually have a CT scan after the first hit. What they were able to show is that the first CT scan was read as normal," said Podell, who also is a team consultant for the Houston Texans, of the NFL. "After the first concussion there was no evidence of any significant injury. And then following the second one is when they ran i
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