What’s new with concussions?

Concussions remain in the forefront of athlete safety concerns. Unfortunately, there have been eight recorded deaths in sports this fall season from heart conditions, head injury, heat related and other causes. Athletic Trainers, Physicians, and healthcare professionals are working to educate the public as well as promote safety. While football gets a lot of media attention, remember soccer, hockey, lacrosse, and other contact sports are now beginning their seasons and are a source of concussion. Know the signs and symptoms of a concussion and remember “When in doubt, sit them out”
Are there more concussions occurring? According to a leading researcher, Kevin Guskowitz, PhD, ATC; “concussion injuries have not increased, they are just better reported and the medic has continues to focus on this issue.”
Where are we at with helmet technology and sensors? Helmets prevent skull fractures, they do not necessarily prevent brain injury. While much has been done to improve helmet technology through padding, both inside and out as well as a controversial rating system concussions continue. There are new methods in use, especially at the collegiate level for monitoring the severity, location and number of impacts incurred. In the NFL, they also use a specific spotter to alert medical personnel when they see an unusually hard hit or player acting suspiciously. Helmets with sensors are valued at about $425.00 for which some parents are willing to pay for but are a cost consideration for schools.
Have some implemented reduced contact guidelines? Yes, the NFL has reduced the number of full contact practices significantly through their collective bargaining agreement. Some colleges have followed this pattern also as well as a few states at the high school level. Some coaches’ fear all contact will cease and the game evolves into flag football.
What is new in initial testing for a concussion? Research in visual testing has proved very useful to determine concussion symptoms. A new sideline test which includes a baseline being obtained first is called the King-Devick test which measures visual acuity on a timed based. If athletes do not reach their baseline they are automatically disqualified to return to play and undergo further testing.
What is Return to Learn? Sports are not the only thing that needs an adjustment when one incurs a concussion. Classroom activities, socialization, reading, test taking, concentration, comprehension can all be impacted. Academic accommodations may need to be made with a gradual return to learn process which includes an incremental process in the classroom. Part of a comprehensive concussion program includes this in the process. For more information check www.cdc.gov under their “heads up” Concussion program.
Do they still grade concussions? Concussions are no longer graded on a scale or classified as mild or severe. They are all considered brain injuries or as the Academy of Neurology defines concussion as “a trauma –induced alteration in mental status that may or may not involve loss of consciousness whose hallmark condition is confusion”
Prevention and recognition? While limited contact in sports helps, collisions will still occur resulting in concussions. This is a public health issue where parents and coaches should advocate for a Certified Athletic Trainer who has the resources to help to prevent and manage these concussive injuries. As Jim Thornton, President of the National Athletic Trainers Association says” would you ever drop your child at a swimming pool without a lifeguard?” yet parents drop their children off at hockey, lacrosse, football and other sports without an athletic trainer present – it doesn’t make sense”
Jim Mackie, M.Ed., ATC, LAT is a Licensed and Certified Athletic Trainer with the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program and serves as the Athletic Trainer for Trinity Christian Academy through Athletic Training and Sports Medicine Services. For more information see www.jsmp.us or call 904-202-5320 or 904-477-9291.

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