Guidelines for protecting the brain

Concussion is a group of symptoms that result from an injury to the brain.  The injury may occur after impact to the brain from an outside force or the brain striking the inner skull.  It affects between 1.6 and 3 million American athletes each year.

The American Academy of Neurology first published a series of guidelines for the evaluation and management of concussion in athletes in 1997.  Over the course of the past 15 years much has been learned on this vital topic.

Last week, this same group published the most comprehensive scientific review of concussion in sports that has ever been undertaken. This multi-disciplinary study looked at over 14,000 published studies from 1955 to 2012. The reviewers included neurologists, psychologists, physiatrists and athletic trainers.

The original guidelines were based on a grading system with the mildest being a grade 1 and most severe grade 3.  The current information shows that each patient who suffers a concussion has to be treated individually.

Some of the most important conclusions from the study include:

•  The presence of a licensed health care professional with experience diagnosing and treating concussion at an athletic event improved early recognition and recovery.
•  A concussed athlete was at greatest risk for a second concussion within 10 days of the first injury.
•  Body checking in youth hockey, hockey players wearing half visors, quarterbacks and any athlete playing on artificial turf is more susceptible to having a prolonged recovery period after concussion.
•  Male athletes playing football, Australian rugby and hockey were most susceptible, while soccer and basketball had the highest risk for females.
“The most effective treatment for concussion continues to be removal from the game as soon as a concussion is suspected,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, one of the principal authors of the study.

This review not only presents new information but confirms the slogan that “when in doubt, sit it out.” 

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