Friday, September 17, 2010

Concussions in the news again, thankfully!

This week has seen not one, not two , but three major news stories about concussions in young athletes. In case someone still thinks this is not relevant for our children, let’s just start by acknowledging how common concussions are. In Mamaroneck school district there have already been 4 concussed football players reported this year. It is estimated that nationwide there may be as many as 3.8 million recreation and sports-related concussions every year.

Then comes the shocking story of the University of Pennsylvania football player who committed suicide at the age of 21 and whose brain at autopsy showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. CTE is the pathological finding that is coming to light in the brains of middle aged NFL players who suffer from dementia. It is their devastating demise that has the NFL looking to more conservative policies on the field.

But this professed policy does not seem to have helped the Philadelphia Eagles’ Stewart Bradley who is seen on video here to be stumbling down the field following a serious hit. Only after he was allowed to go back into the game and come out at half time was a concussion diagnosed. Just watch this video and you will see that something isn’t right:

Also prominent in the news this week are pediatricians who thankfully have more concern for the long term welfare of our children than does the NFL. They have given us the extraordinary report in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal Pediatrics titled “Clinical Report-Sport-Related Concussion in Children and Adolescents.” This is the most current, cogent and comprehensive report I have ever seen on this subject. It is truly worthwhile reading (find it here) and needs to be disseminated to coaches, athletes, parents, trainers, superintendents, teachers and physicians.

They make many important points but I will list the four most important ones here:
  • Concussions can be difficult to diagnose at the time of injury and sometimes are only apparent as the symptoms evolve over the days following the impact.
  • Most symptoms resolve in 7-10 days but some athletes may take months to recover completely. Premature return to play can significantly prolong recovery and risks complications.
  • Athletes with concussion should rest, both physically and cognitively (sometimes staying home from school) until their symptoms have resolved both at rest and with exertion.
  • “Education about sport-related concussion is integral to helping improve awareness, recognition, and management.”

At Mamaroneck High School we have developed and implemented a policy designed to address these state of the art concerns and protect our students. I am available to talk with any members of the community to help educate and promote understanding of this complex subject which demands a cultural shift in our thinking.

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