BACKGROUND: A 26-year-old arena football lineman participating in a "bull in the ring" blocking and tackling drill was blindsided by an opposing teammate. He sustained a direct helmet-to-helmet blow to the right temporal area.
OBJECTIVES: This case describes a unique mechanism of ear barotrauma (intratympanic hemorrhage) and concussion caused by helmet-to-helmet contact in American football.
CASE REPORT: Initial sideline evaluation revealed mild headache, confusion, dizziness, photophobia, and tinnitus, all consistent with a concussion diagnosis. Physical examination revealed a large postauricular contusion over the right mastoid process and diffuse right intratympanic hemorrhage on examination. No hemotympanum or effusion of the middle ear was noted. Abnormalities were seen on vestibular testing and visual accommodation and convergence testing. Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging were performed with attention to the temporal bones and were normal. Neuropsychological testing was abnormal compared to baseline. Audiology testing was within normal limits. Diagnosis was intratympanic hemorrhage secondary to barotrauma caused by helmet-to-helmet contact, with mastoid contusion and season-ending concussion.
CONCLUSIONS: The tympanic membrane (TM) is a highly vascular membrane that is very sensitive to variations of atmospheric pressure. Overpressure can enter the external auditory canal, stretching and displacing the TM medially and causing injury to the tympanic membrane secondary to barotrauma. This concussed football player was never able to return to play due to his postconcussive symptoms. He had no residual hearing or ear problems.
Published In/Presented At
Waninger KN, Gloyeske BM, Hauth JM, Vanic KA, Yen DM. Intratympanic hemorrhage and concussion in a football offensive lineman. J Emerg Med. 2014 Mar;46(3):371-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2013.08.043. Epub 2013 Oct 22.
Medicine and Health Sciences
Department of Medicine