Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Concussion is a serious injury in contact sports

(ARA) - When your son ends up on the bottom of the pile chasing down a fumbled football, or your daughter and her teammate jointly perform sideways dives to keep the volleyball from hitting the floor, you probably catch your breath, hoping no one gets hurt.

And usually, the players involved pick themselves up off the ground, brush the dust off their hands, and the game continues.

But concussions, when sudden trauma causes damages to the brain, are a common injury to the head in contact sports, and an estimated 3 million sports-related concussions happen every year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And, when it comes to the leading causes of traumatic brain injury for young people, ages 15 to 24 years, contact sports come in second only to motor vehicle accidents.

"While the majority of concussions are self-limited, meaning the body will heal itself, catastrophic events can occur and we do not yet know the long-term effects of multiple concussions," says Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, chair of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Sports Neurology Section. The AAN recently drafted a new position statement targeting policymakers with authority over determining policy procedures for when an athlete suffers from concussion while participating in sports.

The AAN's position statement offers help for parents, coaches, administrators and sports team health officials at all levels - from elementary school through professional leagues:

* If the athlete is suspected of suffering a concussion, the athlete should not be allowed to return to play until he or she is seen by a physician with training in the evaluation and management of sports concussions.

* An athlete should not play if he or she is still experiencing symptoms from a concussion.

* A certified athletic trainer should be present at all sporting events, including practices, where athletes are at risk for concussion.

"We need to make sure coaches, trainers and especially parents, are properly educated about how serious concussions can be, and that the right steps have been taken before an athlete returns to the field," Kutcher says.

If your athlete suffers a concussion, make sure he or she receives medical attention as soon as possible. Treatment should be taken to ensure there is proper oxygen supply, blood flow is moderated and blood pressure controlled. Other precautions can include X-rays of the skull and neck areas, or even a CT scan.

If the concussion is very severe, rehabilitation involving physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy is an option, as well as psychiatric help and social support.

To learn more about dealing with concussions, visit www.aan.com/patients.


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