Football linemen crunching into each other, helmet-to-helmet. A batter beaned in a baseball game. A boxer's bloodied face taking punch after punch. Sometimes, the signs of head trauma are obvious.

But research presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Physiological Society, taking a look at physical impacts felt by players in recreational rugby matches, found some similarities between those who had suffered known head injuries, and those who hadn't.

The results appeared to poke some holes in the effectiveness of the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool, a questionnaire used along with other methods to diagnose concussions during sporting events, according to Stephanie Iring, a Rutgers University PhD candidate and the study's first author.

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Out of 209 players whose SCAT scores were studied, the 80 who had sustained a blow to the head reported 26 symptoms on average, while the 129 who exerted themselves but had no head trauma reported an average of nine symptoms.

Despite the disparity in quantity of symptoms, Iring said there was a bit of crossover between the two groups.

"We wanted to see if these exercised players also reported some of those symptoms, and we actually did see that a lot of the controls reported a lot of the symptoms that were also reported by the players that had experienced a head injury," she said.

Fatigue and neck pain were two of the symptoms most commonly shared by the two groups, whereas the players confirmed to have suffered head injuries frequently additionally complained of headaches, cognitive-sensory effects, emotional-affective symptoms, hypersensitivity, or just "not feeling right," according to the study.

Specifically with regard to fatigue, Iring said while that could simply be a byproduct of having completed an intense match, it could also signal undetected head trauma.

"Our findings definitely highlight the importance of considering the effects of exercise and fatigue when we're assessing concussions on the field," she said.

The key, Iring said, is to get a player off the field and get them diagnosed and treated as soon as possible if there is any doubt as to their condition.

"You don't want these athletes to continue to play, and even experience another head injury," she said. "There's a lot of studies that do show that if they have experienced a head injury, they're likely to be more liable to experience another one while they're still playing the game."

Iring said future research will aim to further delineate symptoms of regular exercise exertion from those directly connected to head injuries, in order to add that data into sideline assessments.

"There's a lot of underreporting that's going on right now on these players, so this is important to understand which symptoms, but also partner them with markers of concussion that are able to be better diagnosed on the sideline initially," Iring said.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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NJ county fairs make a comeback: Check out the schedule for 2022

UPDATED 4/10: A current list of county fairs happening across the Garden State for 2022. From rides, food, animals, and hot air balloons, each county fair has something unique to offer.

(Fairs are listed in geographical order from South NJ to North NJ)

These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions:

School aid for all New Jersey districts for 2022-23

The state Department of Education announced district-level school aid figures for the 2022-23 school year on Thursday, March 10, 2022. They're listed below, alphabetically by county. For additional details from the NJDOE, including specific categories of aid, click here.