RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - It happens more often than you think. A fall or a smack to the head can lead to serious concussions and many of these injuries go unnoticed.
Concussions are hard to diagnose. In a forum at the University of Nevada, Reno Tuesday night, former NFL players and a doctor explained how it's the most common injury in a contact sport. A concussion is a brain injury that should be treated properly and not ignored.
"Football is a great sport. I can't take away from it because it took my life away," said Brent Boyd.
Boyd is a former defensive guard for the Minnesota Vikings. He talked about how the game gave him more than 200 concussions, leaving him with a permanent disability.
"I had gone from going to a highly motivated student, high draft choice to being a person who couldn't work."
Among the group listening to his warning was a Sparks High School cheerleader, looking to learn more about the dangers of her sport.
'I'm a flyer so I've had hard falls sometimes," said Julissa Gonzalez.
This will be Gonzalez's third year flying for the team. She has had her fair share of tumbles, but like many others, she didn't think her injuries were serious.
"I've had headaches that would last like weeks sometimes. For me, I wouldn't say anything because I didn't want to sit out or thought it was a big deal," she said.
The symptoms went away after a week, but doctors say you should never ignore the symptoms no matter how small.
"Some of the worst concussions I've seen are in cheerleaders," said Dr. Islas, a professor and physician at UNR. "Everyone's concussion is different. It's like fingerprint. They way you would suffer a concussion would be different from how i would suffer a concussion."
Common symptoms include headache, fogginess, inability to focus and moodiness. For children, some of these signs may be harder to grasp, but that's when parents can make the difference.
"Kids are too young to make the right decisions. The parents need to make an educated decision to allow their kids to play a contact sport," said Boyd.
Doctors say the top three sports that can cause concussions are ice hockey, football and soccer.